LeBron James was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 NBA Finals on Thursday night, earning his second straight Finals MVP trophy after his Miami Heat won their second straight NBA championship by beating the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7 to earn a 4-3 series win in one of the most thrilling NBA Finals we've seen in quite some time.
James was sensational in Game 7, leading all scorers with 37 points on 12 for 23 shooting, grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds, dishing four assists and snagging two steals in 45 brilliant minutes. He averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and seven assists per game in the series, shooting 44.7 percent from the floor, 35.3 percent from 3-point range and 79.5 percent from the foul line.
When James accepted the Bill Russell Trophy awarded to the Finals' Most Valuable Player after the Heat's 2011-12 championship win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, he said it was "about damn time" he'd won an NBA title and series MVP award in his third trip to the title round. This time around, he was a bit more circumspect, opening his remarks by giving credit to the Spurs as a first-class organization and a team that had given his Heat its toughest challenge since James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach in the summer of 2010.
James did the lion's share of his Game 7 damage with his jump shot, a tool he'd worked tirelessly to improve but had seemed to abandon him as San Antonio defenders repeatedly sagged off him and packed the paint to cut off driving lanes to the basket. Early in the series, those midrange jumpers (14 for 38 through six games) and 3-point looks (7 for 24) weren't falling for James. But in Game 7, when he needed them most, his stroke was true, going 9 for 20 outside the paint, including 5 for 10 from long distance, to give the Heat a needed deep threat on a night where Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers combined to shoot 1 for 13 from 3-point range.
ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke asked James about how it felt to finally find the rhythm on the jumper after all the time he'd invested in improving it.
"I work on my game a lot," James said. "Throughout the offseason, I put a lot of work into it. And to be able to come out here and [have] the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate ... it's the ultimate. I'm at a loss for words."
Luckily, that wasn't the case when it came time to discuss the seemingly endless outside pressure and electron-microscope-level scrutiny James faces.
Heading into Game 7, plenty of ink was spilled and words exchanged about how every game seems like the biggest game of LeBron's life and, in the eyes of some, will always serve as some sort of referendum on James' talent, demeanor and place among basketball's immortals. When Burke asked how he's managed to continue to perform at such a high level in the midst of all those external stresses, James reached for some inspiration from noted NBA fan/philosopher Lil Wayne.
"Listen, for me, I can't worry about what everybody say about me," James said, as the AmericanAirlines Arena faithful cheered. "I'm LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I'm not even supposed to be here. That's enough.
"Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a number 6 [jersey] with 'James' on the back," he continued. "I'm blessed. So what everybody's saying about me off the court don't matter. I ain't got no worries."
What he does have, though, is one of the most impressive 18-month stretches in NBA history, with consecutive regular-season Most Valuable Player awards, consecutive NBA titles and consecutive NBA Finals MVP trophies bracketing an Olympic gold medal. While a 2013-14 season that starts in 133 days will surely give him plenty to gnash his teeth over, on this night, LeBron James has the basketball world on a string, and there's not a thing in that world that he's got to worry about.