Three-time league MVP LeBron James finally has an NBA championship to add to his belt, after the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five of the 2012 NBA Finals.
MIAMI -- LeBron James was accused of taking the easy way to his breakthrough championship, but the last two years have been anything but easy. He was five minutes and 49 seconds away from the brink of his ultimate goal when he found himself sliding and falling to the floor. He lost control of the ball and he had to be worrying if he was going to lose the game and the NBA Finals along with it. Was this how it was going to end again?
MIAMI -- Five thoughts from Miami's 104-98 win over Oklahoma City in Game 4 ...
A fierce late-game rally by the Oklahoma City Thunder proved fruitless Thursday night as the Miami Heat held out to win game two of the 2012 NBA Finals 100-96, tying the series, 1-1.
MIAMI -- It is possible that, as LeBron James warms up for the Heat on Sunday, fans at American Airlines Arena will be looking down at their phones to follow Tiger Woods' surge at the U.S. Open. Of course, the way Tiger played Saturday, it is also possible that Tiger will pull his phone out on the 18th fairway to get a Heat-Thunder score. Tiger is five strokes off the lead on a course that just put him in a headlock. The odds are not good.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Was this the kind of star he'd always hoped to become? Not exactly. The minutes were clearing away from the game clock as slow as evaporation, and never fast enough for LeBron James.
These NBA Finals have quickly morphed into a Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James debate, which was natural and not surprising. Durant has reached the level where people can't help it -- they want to compare him to the best in the game.
The preseason favorites to reach the NBA Finals have arrived with their credentials newly polished and their resolve tested. Oklahoma City and Miami both feature one of the two best basketball players on the planet in three-time MVP LeBron James and three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, each one enjoying the best season of his career and seeking his first championship. Less than seven months after the end of a nasty lockout, the league has delivered a Finals matchup with enough superstars and plot lines to lure in the casual fans, and enough depth, balance, grit and legitimacy among these two teams to further stoke the passion of the cognoscenti.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- They are the two most explosive players in the game offensively, but it was the differing approaches at the less glamorous end of the floor that defined Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the NBA Finals began Tuesday. Durant guarded his rival for much of Game 1, while James tried to guard everyone.
The Thunder's Kevin Durant says his team wants to win a title, while LeBron James feels more relaxed for the NBA Finals.
Miami and Oklahoma City are playing for the championship in a series that features the MVP, LeBron James, the MVP runner-up and scoring champion, Kevin Durant, and a host of other stars. The Heat are back in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row as the 27-year-old James seeks his first title to cap his ninth season. Durant, 23, is also looking for his first ring, the five-year veteran having led the franchise to its first Finals appearance since 1996, when the Thunder played in Seattle. Game 1 is set for Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City. Which team will get off to a good start? Join SI.com's Ben Glicksman and Paul Forrester as they live blog the series opener beginning at 8:45 p.m.
Hate sells on television, and last year's NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami averaged 17.3 million viewers over six games, making it the league's second-most-viewed championship series since the Pistons-Lakers in 2004 (17.9 million viewers) and only slightly behind the seven-game series in 2010 between the big-market Celtics and Lakers (18.1 million viewers).
As a child, I sometimes dreamed of going to the NBA Finals, but I never imagined they would take place in Oklahoma City and all the players would dress like nerds. Life is full of surprises. Let's keep that in mind as we get ready for the epic battle between the man who broke Cleveland's heart and the city that stole Seattle's team. These Finals may not be what we expect.
Miami and Oklahoma City will play for the championship in a series that features the MVP, LeBron James, the MVP runner-up and scoring champion, Kevin Durant, and a host of other stars in the Heat's Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and the Thunder's Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man Award winner James Harden. The Heat are back in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row as the 27-year-old James seeks his first title to cap his ninth season. Durant, 23, is also looking for his first ring, the five-year veteran having led the franchise to its first Finals appearance since 1996, when the Thunder played in Seattle. What can we expect once Game 1 tips off on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City? Five SI.com NBA writers analyze how each team got this far and what lies ahead in the Finals.
BOSTON -- This was LeBron James's rendition of what Michael Jordan did next door 26 years ago, in a building that no longer exists. On his Sunday afternoon, Michael had 63 points against Larry Bird's Celtics and was glorified for losing in two overtimes. There are many differences between them and on Thursday this was the most important one: Jordan was on his way up when he revealed his true self in the old Garden, but when LeBron broke through in the newer building it was to prevent himself from tumbling off the cliff.
In the fast-moving media world of 2012, the obituary comes before the death certificate. You call it tasteless; we call it efficient. So it is with the Miami Heat, who are only down 3 games to 2 but already have been cut into bite-sized pieces and served to stray dogs.
The Eastern Conference finals resume Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the Celtics and Heat tied at 2-2. Miami returns home for Game 5 after losing twice in Boston, where Dwyane Wade missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in Game 4, the second game in this series to go to overtime. What have we learned so far and what's in store for the rest of the series? Four SI.com NBA writers make their predictions and analyze Chris Bosh's potential return, Rajon Rondo's brilliance and the highly scrutinized officiating.
BOSTON -- To watch Miami in a game like this is to wonder about destiny. You think about all of the great players that preceded LeBron James, and of how you somehow knew that Larry Bird or Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan or Tim Duncan were going to have their way in the end. As the tension grows you find yourself expecting James to force his way into their world, and to have his way as the great ones inevitably do.
BOSTON -- Kevin Garnett changed the NBA two decades ago as a 6-11 power forward who played with the skills of a shooting guard. He launched a trend that has been emulated by his generation and its followers, but now, surprisingly, it looks like an elaborately extended con game. If the Celtics are to return to the NBA Finals in what may be Garnett's final month of basketball, they are going to need him to become the kind of low-post dinosaur that he and his kind worked so hard to replace.
MIAMI -- "They don't have to score 70 for us to have a chance to win,'' said coach Erik Spoelstra before his Heat beat the Celtics 93-79 in Game 1 of the Eastern finals. And he was right. In this series it's about quality more than quantity.
Two star-studded, high-profile teams that, for very different reasons, are especially desperate to win a championship this season square off in an Eastern Conference finals series that features at least a full handful of future Hall of Famers and an unusually high quotient of drama and uncertainty.
So now what do we do? Should we say that this was "just Game 4" and "just the second round," and downplay LeBron James' one-man obliteration of the Pacers? Should we say he is lucky he didn't have to hit a game-winning shot? Should we play the Fun With Stats game and point out the Heat only outscored the Pacers by four points with LeBron on the floor, while they were plus-17 with Mario Chalmers?
INDIANAPOLIS -- The missed shots piled up, and Dwyane Wade was at a loss to explain the problem. For two days Wade had stewed over his abysmal five-point, 2-for-13 performance in Game 3. He sought treatment for his sore legs from the Heat trainers, sought counsel from his former college coach, Tom Crean, in nearby Bloomington. The extended break between games was a nightmare for Miami, said head coach Erik Spoelstra, perhaps for no one more so than Wade, who was on the arena floor two and a half hours early on Sunday, firing up jump shots and running through drills with a Heat assistant coach, desperately trying to work away the problem.
The chastising chatter that often surrounds LeBron James grew loud again Tuesday night, the questions about heart and poise and that game of hot potato that he sometimes likes to play late in games.
LeBron James raised the heavy bronze MVP trophy high above his head Sunday afternoon, a validation of a season well done. No one takes more flak than LeBron these days, but no one played better in these last wild, unpredictable four months than him. He was the best, joining the rarified air occupied by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone as three-time MVP winners. He was the best, which he left no room for doubt of in a brilliant 32-point, 15-rebound, five-assist effort in Miami's 95-86 win over Indiana.
The third-seeded Indiana Pacers enter this second-round series as the clear-cut underdog against the No. 2 Heat. Miami has more playoff experience, the two best players in the series and a home-court advantage made more significant by its NBA-best 31-5 home record through the regular season and first round. Although the Pacers won four straight in their first-round matchup with Orlando after dropping the first game, they frequently allowed an overmatched opponent missing star center Dwight Howard to come back from large deficits. Similar lapses in intensity will be fatal against the Heat, who thrive on swift bursts of momentum.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James is the NBA's 2011-2012 Most Valuable Player.
MIAMI -- This was a big day for the Heat, who controlled everything within their reach and benefited from the worst kind of luck. Derrick Rose is out of the way, sadly, and the Knicks provided little resistance in their playoff-opening 100-67 bludgeoning Saturday.
This story appears in the April 30, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
The Miami Heat needed to beat Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, even if they say they didn't. One of 66, just playing to get better, blah, blah, blah. Blowout losses to Indiana, Boston and the Thunder in the last two weeks had kick started the questions about Miami's vulnerability, had forced Erik Spoelstra to make a change in the starting lineup, had caused the hordes of Chris Bosh critics to plug his name into the trade machine and tweet out prospective deals. They needed it, and they got it, edging Oklahoma City 98-93, evening the season series and ending it. For now.
"This is very tough," LeBron James could have said. "But I can't ignore my heart. I know a lot of people think I'm going to Miami, but I just can't do it. I can't leave home. That's why I'm staying in Cleveland to play for my Cavaliers."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The slap could be heard from the floor high up into the seats. Kobe Bryant spun around to the baseline and Dwyane Wade slammed him hard from behind across the shoulders and the nose. It was like a family argument that had spilled over unpredictably and irretrievably.
In this season of the resolved lockout, the All-Star weekend that was threatened with cancellation is now upon us. It has arrived suddenly, a little more than two months after the opening of training camp, and it will be defined by a variety of strange circumstances as Orlando opens its relatively new arena to this sprawling event. Here is a look at what lies ahead.
SI.com's NBA writers give their predictions for the 2011-12 season.
You would think a league that eternally rests so precariously on the tightrope of popularity would not have risked a public relations disaster, particularly in the wake of a highly successful 2010-11 season. Keep the momentum going -- that should've been the M.O.
Many months ago I asked you to coin new words for familiar concepts in sports and you replied in great numbers, from places farflung and nearflung -- a word that doesn't exist but ought to, which is the whole point of this exercise.
The basketball star took a back seat to the young cub at Chengdu's Panda Reserve
It's never too soon to start thinking about next season (assuming there is one, of course), and the online gambling site Bodog has the early lines on the favorites. Miami (5-to-2) leads the field, while Toronto (150-1) is the longest of the long shots. Here's a look at the top six contenders on the board and our view of their chances of winning the championship in 2012, with the caveat that the effect of the new collective bargaining agreement on roster decisions is obviously a huge unknown.
Dallas Mavericks fans greet the NBA champions as they arrive at the airport.
Sports and politics have always mixed. We've had former athletes hold elective office; mayors, members of Congress and governors are always making bets with one another when their teams play each other in big games; and it's great to see the respective national champions or winners in pro sports visit the White House for a congratulatory pat on the back from the president of the United States.
I am conflicted about LeBron James these days, and not in the way most of you are conflicted, where you wonder whether he should be tarred then feathered, or feathered then tarred. But in the wake of Dallas Mavericks 4, LeBron And the Forces of Evil 2, I think we have to paraphrase one of LeBron's lines:
MIAMI -- One was arriving. The other was leaving. In each case, their clothes described the man.
These NBA Finals have affirmed what I have suspected for a while: People who criticize the NBA don't actually watch the NBA.
DALLAS -- The question raised to LeBron James on the morning of Game 5 was whether the evening's performance would define him. Hours later comes the answer, following a 112-103 loss in which James contributed two points in the fourth quarter. The answer is no -- not yet.
DALLAS -- For more than 11 months, LeBron James has been perhaps the most scrutinized player in the history of American sports, every sentence parsed, every movement deconstructed. Now, as he enters the final days of his year under the microscope, the focus is improbably growing even more acute than it was before.
MIAMI -- I will bet you all of the money in my pocket -- not much, I admit, but it's all I've got -- that Pat Riley felt the same acidic, clammy, bass-drum-beating-in-his-skull feelings that he felt in 1984. This is something he would rather not recall, but here it was in front of him Thursday.
MIAMI -- The opening statement goes to the Heat. Now we wait for the rebuttal from Dallas, in spite of owner Mark Cuban's refusal to speak.
The Mavericks and Heat return to the Finals for a rematch of 2006 but under much different circumstances. Miami, replete with its stars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, garnered as many fans as enemies when the three joined forces last summer and went on to plow through the East this postseason. Dallas, with Dirk Nowitzki and a revamped supporting cast, surprised with a sweep of the Lakers and an all-out dominant run in the West. So what can we expect in this Finals sequel? Five SI.com NBA writers analyze how each team got this far and what lies ahead in the Finals.
The Miami Heat has been called whiners, opportunists and other derogatory names this year on its quest for championship rings.
There's nothing like starpower when it comes to the NBA Finals. In the great 1980s we were treated to three Celtic-Laker matchups featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan picked up the torch from Larry and Magic. Then came Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.
Every once in a while, a man has to say something controversial, no matter what people think. Be bold, defy convention, risk offending people. Today is my day. Are you ready? Here we go:
One of the best things about this rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals between the Heat and Mavericks is the credible arguments on behalf of each team. Who is the more valuable player, LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki? Does Miami have the edge because of the star power among James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or does Dallas hold an advantage based on depth of talent across the rotation? Will the Heat defense dominate the series, or will Nowitzki prove impossible to guard?
CHICAGO -- This is why there can be no doubt anymore of the Heat's championship potential. They came, they stunk, they won.
MIAMI -- Memories of LeBron James' previous postseasons come to mind as you watch Derrick Rose. Someday Rose will make the big jump shots down the stretch, as James has learned to do. Someday Rose will be setting up his teammates to be heroes, as James did Tuesday for Chris Bosh and Mike Miller.
MIAMI -- The Heat look as if they're steadily pulling away in this Eastern Conference final, beating Chicago a second straight time to take a 2-1 lead going into Game 4 on Tuesday. Here are some observations from Miami's 96-85 victory:
The Eastern Conference finals creates a matchup of recent MVPs -- Derrick Rose vs. LeBron James -- that nobody would have predicted a year ago. They embody this rejuvenated era of open-court dunking, slashing drives and an insatiable talent for creating any kind of shot.
ATLANTA -- One week after being named the youngest Most Valuable Player in league history, Chicago's Derrick Rose made headlines again by being selected to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his short career.
As the second round nears its conclusion, four SI.com NBA writers take stock of some of the biggest playoff storylines.
MIAMI -- Where he stood showed how much everything had changed. The basket was 25 feet away, a distance that used to be his weakness. His new teammates were coming out to congratulate him. His new arena and the only fans who love him were louder than they'd been last summer.
MIAMI -- Will the new replace the old? Will nature have its way?
BOSTON -- A city-silencing, game-tying three with two minutes left. A hesitating, long-striding, left-handed leaning drive in the final minute of regulation. A fallaway rainbow buzzer-beater to open the overtime. A catch from Dwyane Wade that he drove into the lane to create a layup for Chris Bosh, Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. A backbreaking charge drawn near the three-point line against Paul Pierce.
MIAMI -- The opposing trends couldn't have been more obvious. The younger Heat were peaking, and the older Celtics were breaking down. LeBron James (35 points) and Dwyane Wade (28) were seizing control of the biggest moments, while Paul Pierce (13 points) and Ray Allen (7) were being used as fourth-quarter decoys.
MIAMI -- The stars are out here in South Beach.
Yes, LeBron James now owns a part of the English football club Liverpool -- but that's only one piece of the story.
One hundred and fifty years ago this week, our nation split apart. One of these years, we'll get back together again. In the meantime, you can't get Americans to agree on ANYTHING, no matter what it is, except ...
NBA star LeBron James has become a minority shareholder in English soccer team Liverpool after penning a representation deal with the club's owners.
It seems like a lifetime ago when the Heat's offense operated with the efficiency of a pickup game, relying on the skills (albeit unique ones) of one or two players to score. They would need LeBron James to flex his all-world talent or Dwyane Wade to single-handedly carry the load.
The success of last year ricochets back upon the Cavaliers today. Last year, they were 34-11 and headed for the league's best record, and now they're 8-37 on their way to No. 1 in the lottery. One year ago, they were running off 13 straight victories, and now they've suffered 18 straight losses and a franchise record of 22 in a row on the road.
Carmelo Anthony describes his in-limbo situation as "complicated," but at least one aspect is simple: He learned a lesson about how not to leave his team from LeBron James.
DENVER -- It was seven seasons ago that rookies Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were cast as rivals. Now Anthony may make that rivalry come true.
The party at Coco Deville was star-studded
LeBron James made a regrettable stand on behalf of the 1980s NBA, and it has nothing to do with contraction. Follow his argument all the way through and he appears to be suggesting that some of the league's biggest names should accept smaller salaries for the good of pro basketball.
1. There will be a work stoppage on July 1 ... and it won't be over by Dec. 31. The fundamental difference between the two sides -- owners complaining the league is hemorrhaging cash, players thinking it is raking it in -- has made a lockout inevitable. The owners aren't looking for subtle changes, either. They are going for the jugular, targeting max salaries and guaranteed contracts and looking to cut deeper into the players' piece of the revenue pie. Talks will break down at the February All-Star break and both sides will dig in. After the 1997-98 season, a lockout lasted nearly seven months, until Jan 20, 1999; it will be at least that long this time around.
In many ways, 2010 felt like a setup year. There were a lot of questions. We didn't get too many answers. Is Tiger Woods done as the dominant force in golf? Don't know. Is Derek Jeter declining rapidly? We'll find out. Will LeBron James' Decision (powered by ESPN) lead to a shift of power in the NBA? Let you know next year.
LeBron James led the much-vaunted Miami Heat to a morale-boosting Christmas Day victory over two-time defending NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers.
He earns millions of dollars every year, but basketball star LeBron James wants investors to splash out up to $500,000 each to sponsor his lavish 26th birthday celebrations.
LOS ANGELES -- On June 26, 2003, Kobe Bryant told then-ESPN reporter Jim Gray that he would opt out of his contract with the Lakers after the following season and become a free agent. That night, LeBron James was selected by the Cavaliers with the first pick in the NBA draft. To Lakers coach Phil Jackson, the events were not coincidental. For all that has changed since 2003 -- Bryant did opt out, but re-signed with the Lakers; James played seven seasons with the Cavs, but after his own heart-to-heart with Gray, bolted for Miami -- Jackson still views the Bryant/James dynamic through the prism of their first PR battle.
1. "The Decision." Two years of speculation heightened the buzz around the ultimate free-agent destination of LeBron James. And then the self-indulgent idea of crassly announcing his departure from his hometown Cavaliers on live TV detonated the hype at the expense of James' good name. Someday, we will look back and realize the notoriety of last summer served more than anything to raise his profile, which will mean ever more attention for James should he win a championship in Miami alongside fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, whose group machinations resulted in an unprecedented coup for Heat president Pat Riley. The whole extended episode of LeBron's escape from Cleveland -- the long build-up, launch and instantaneous crash -- can be viewed as his attempt to leap the Snake River Canyon. It had two results: He lost control of his fame, and he became more famous than ever.
NEW YORK -- Is it possible for a two-time defending MVP to be overlooked?
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh head to New York for a date with the Knicks on Friday.
The worst is over. LeBron James was supposed to be in fear for his safety when he led his new team into his old, angry city Thursday night. Now that he has gone back to Cleveland again and responded with his best game of this notorious season, he can say with confidence that the role of villain isn't so bad. He has nothing left to fear. What could be worse than subjecting oneself to tens of thousands of newly sworn enemies?
Despite fan protests, the NBA star led his new team, the Miami Heat, to an 118-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers
CLEVELAND -- Well, that was not what they wanted.
LeBron James is going home to Cleveland Thursday night wearing a Miami Heat jersey, and no less an authority than the basketball-loving president of the United States predicts a rough night.
Fans react to LeBron James' return to Cleveland as a Miami Heat player.
LeBron James has never requested a trade. He has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. He has never gone to jail for running a dogfighting operation. He has never run into the stands in the middle of an NBA game to separate a fan from his shirt, or been accused of giving insider information to bookies, or been arrested for beating his girlfriend, or signed the Jonas Brothers to a record deal, or put you on hold and transferred you to a guy in India who can't help you, or sold cocaine-shooting semi-automatic weapons out of the trunk of his car.
1. Dave Niehaus, Mariners legend: They lingered in the stands for hours at Safeco Field last Saturday, thousands of Mariners fans paying tribute to Niehaus, the team's voice for 34 seasons and a beloved figure in the Pacific Northwest. The Hall of Fame broadcaster died last Wednesday of a heart attack at age 75. (The Seattle Times website set up a special tribute section for Niehaus, complete with his greatest calls and reflections from fans.)
MIAMI -- Like virtually every other team in the NBA, the Miami Heat spend the last 10 minutes of practice shooting free throws. It forces players to shoot when their legs are tired -- a simulation of fourth-quarter free throws -- but it's also a way for them to wind down. A few break off to each basket, usually chatting as they go, sometimes making up competitions to spice an otherwise mundane exercise. On Wednesday afternoon, as the Heat shot their free throws, no one spoke. If there were competitions, they were conducted in eerie silence. The gym was a place of work, not play.
The new-look Miami Heat recorded their first win of the NBA season on Wednesday, but their conquerors in the opening round the Boston Celtics could not back up the victory.
Both the movie "Secretariat" and the Broadway play "Lombardi" opened recently. Yes, sports dramas tend to be all about winning, and seldom do they have any subtlety. We fans get stuck with enough losers in real life, so it's more enjoyable -- and presumably more profitable for the producers -- to err, when it comes to athletic art, on the side of triumph. Let sensitive, starving poets carry on about what the pain of defeat can teach us.
It's a question Miami Heat non-fans probably wish LeBron James would have asked months ago: "What should I do?"
USA Today recently dubbed the Miami Heat the team America already loves to hate. But one of the undeniable truisms of sports television is this: Hate sells.
LeBron James addresses the off-season controversy over his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat in a 90-second video posted on YouTube by Nike.
Around this time of year -- no, not the opening of the NBA season; I mean election season -- you hear it all the time from politicians:
With the start of the 2010-11 season less than a week away, four SI.com NBA writers conducted an e-mail roundtable about the league's biggest storyline: the new Miami Heat. Here's what they had to say about LeBron James and Co.:
A packed house of 19,600. More than 125 media credentials issued. A nationally televised game. Did we mention this was the preseason? Indeed, the circus has officially opened in Miami, with the Heat demolishing Detroit 105-89 in their preseason opener.
In the grand scheme of things, LeBron James's answer to CNN's Soledad O'Brien regarding whether race played a role in the backlash to his "The Decision" special -- "I think so, at times. It's always, you know, a race factor." -- wasn't much.
LeBron James speaks to CNN's Soledad O' Brien about the backlash against his decision to join the Miami Heat.
NBA activity for the 2010-11 season is underway as training camps across the league opened this week. Here's the latest news to come out of the camps.
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