MIAMI — With the Heat repeating as champions thanks to a thrilling Game 7 win over the Spurs, there was no question who would be named the Finals MVP if Miami was the one hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy before the night was through.
LeBron James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals, and was every bit the deciding game’s most valuable player.
It wasn’t surprising that James was able to perform on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, and with the most at stake. But the way he took to shooting midrange jumpers and three-pointers with confidence and accuracy was a little bit different than the attacking, driving style of play that had been his hallmark to this point in the series.
James hit four shots from between 15 and 22 feet out, and five from three-point distance. The shot that will define this game — and for now, mark his legacy — was an 18-footer with under 30 seconds to play that made it a two-possession game, and kicked off the celebration for the fans in attendance.
“You’re always happy for guys when they’re so dedicated, and we all know his work ethic,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward, when asked about how James has grown as a shooter. “It’s probably unique for a guy who has been the best in the game since he was in seventh grade; usually you wouldn’t have the type of work ethic that would match that type of talent. But as the series went on, he realized that was probably the shot that was going to be open, and in the biggest game, the biggest moment, those are the shots that he hit. And those were the difference tonight.”
James talked about how he’s improved as a player, specifically in reference to his shooting. But most important to him seems to be the responsibility he has as the leader of his team and its best player — which is perhaps what ultimately motivates him to perform at the level of the game’s most valuable.
“I mean, I said before the series that I was a better player than I was last time I faced the Spurs,” James said. “Didn’t look that way the first couple of games, but I stuck with it. Through all that adversity and throughout, I guess, the rhythm that I was in at that point, I just kept going. Just trusted all the work that I put into my game. And to be able to come through for your teammates, for me, I think ‑‑ you know more than anybody how much I care about my teammates and hate letting my teammates down. To be able to come through for my teammates in the biggest moment on the biggest stage makes me more satisfied than anything in the world.”