LeBron James has been on a trajectory to become one of the best players of his generation from the moment he started gaining national recognition as a junior in high school, but the second NBA title James secured on Thursday night would seem to solidify his status as one of the game's all-time greats.
James has now completed one of the most thoroughly impressive runs in modern basketball history. After grabbing his third MVP and winning his first championship with the Heat last season, James was the driving force behind Team USA's gold medal finish at the 2012 London Olympics. He added another MVP and championship ring after the Miami Heat outlasted the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
After the game, James took to the podium to reflected on his extraordinary stretch.
"Last year when I was sitting up here with my first title, I said it was the toughest thing I've ever done," said James. "This year I would say (I) was absolutely wrong. This was the toughest title among the two. We were down every series. We were able to take a lead and then we'd be down again. We were scratching for our lives in Game 6 down five with 28 seconds to go. It's a true test of our perseverance."
The Spurs played James tough through the Finals, a fact James recognized by calling San Antonio "a first-class organization" full of "first-class players." The Spurs held James to under 20 points in the first three games of the series, sparking the same type of criticism that plagued the Heat star before he finally won his first championship in 2012.
James acknowledged San Antonio's defensive schemes were difficult to adjust to, and that it took him so time to truly gauge the Spurs' defense. The Spurs made it a point to dare James to shoot jumpers throughout the series. He talked about not losing faith in what he established during the regular season, when he set career-highs in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
"Everything you've worked on, the repetition, the practices, the offseason training. No matter how big the stakes are, just go with it.
"I said before the series that I was a better player than I was the last time I played the Spurs. It didn't look that way the first couple games but I stuck with it. Through all the adversity, I just stuck with it."
James said he was tired after so many consecutive months of playing basketball at the world's highest level, and said he's about to give himself some time off. He is getting married this summer and joked about calling off the wedding if the Heat were to lose Game 7.
"I need to rest my body. I do," James said. "As much as i love working out and as much as I love getting better, I think the smartest thing is to give my body a break."