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Heat survive most pressure-packed season of all time

Jun 21, 2013, 3:16 AM EST

LeBron James wandered around the American Airlines Center court in an apparent stupor – receiving congratulatory handshakes hugs and from Spurs players, surviving a bear hug from Juwan Howard and sharing a moment with Gregg Popovich.

If LeBron looked tired, it’s because he was.

LeBron said he couldn’t sleep the night before Game 7 victory, and he couldn’t fall asleep the afternoon of the game as he usually does, either.

“You’re nervous. You’re excited,” LeBron told NBA TV. “You’ve got anxiety.”

MORE: LeBron ‘stuck with it,’ named 2013 Finals MVP

But LeBron and the Heat overcame that burden, merely their latest in an exhausting three years, and now they have another championship.

The Heat’s challenges were deeper than just a sleepless night and a restless afternoon. No team has faced more pressure in NBA history, and the weight on LeBron’s shoulders was even heavier.

Of course, the Heat brought a lot of it on themselves. From “The Decision” to “Not two, not three, not four…,” LeBron drew even more scrutiny to what would have already been a controversial choice to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

The Heat took their lumps, falling to the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals. And that was especially difficult to endure, considering the Heat received more media attention than any North American professional team ever has. Media outlets completely reorganized their coverage plans to devote more resources to the Heat beat.

MORE: LeBron, Wade stick together to win another title

Miami survived the gauntlet in year two, winning the title. Though that should have ended issues it didn’t – has any NBA champion, let alone a Finals MVP, received more questions about whether he can win the big one than LeBron did this year? – it brought a new level of difficulty.

“The second one is way harder than the first one,” LeBron told NBA TV. “I heard a lot, after I won my first one, they was like, ‘You know, they’re going to start getting easier and easier and easier.’ Absolutely not true. Absolutely not true. This was the hardest one by far.”

Not only were expectations higher and media attention greater, Miami leaned on a blitzing defensive system that, while effective, was physically exhausting. A 27-game regular-season win streak became mentally exhausting too, requiring the Heat to bring a tighter focus than most contenders summon in the dog days of February and March.

MORE: ‘Game 7 is always going to haunt me,’ Duncan says

The win streak also created unreasonable expectations that the Heat could cruise through the playoffs. In reality, Miami need 23 postseason games to outlast the field, a total topped just eight times before. Any thought this was going to be easy was delusional, but perhaps nobody realized how tough the Heat’s road would get near its end.

They could have succumbed after losing Game 3 of the Finals by 36 points – no team that suffered a 35-point loss in the Finals had ever won the series – but they didn’t.

They could have succumbed when they fell behind 3-2 San Antonio – they hadn’t won back-to-back games in the previous month – but they didn’t.

They could have succumbed when they entered Game 7 – San Antonio had never trailed in a Finals series, and only the 1988 Lakers had won two Game 7s as deep into the playoffs as the Heat, which also beat the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals – but they didn’t.

After surviving their final challenge, the Heat celebrated their championship, and Doris Burke asked Wade what it took to reach this point.

“Everything,” Wade said. “It took everything we had as team.

“We’re a resilient team, and we did whatever it took.”

A few minutes later, LeBron, awoken from his stupor, stood in the locker room under a mist as steady as rain.

“I can’t see,” LeBron said squinting and grinning until someone got him a towel to wipe his eyes.

Several times this season, the Heat could drowned in the pressure, in the attention, in the physical exhaustion. But they never did, and now they’re swimming in champagne.

  1. angulocarlos1 - Jun 21, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    Ladies and gentlemen, the King is here to stay!!!

  2. cantonbound13 - Jun 21, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    Congratulations 1972wasalongtimeago on your team’s championship. You can stick your chest out and talk all the smack you want. Much respect to you as you stood bye your team win or lose. The others that just showed up on here after a win, too many to list, I still have zero respect for you. 1972, enjoy, see you next season.

    • rawgator06 - Jun 21, 2013 at 5:07 AM

      Besides the “i still have zero respect for you”, I think that is the most mature post I have ever read of yours.

      • hehateme2 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:01 AM

        New Flash: No one cares about your respect cantonclown. Your delusion know no bounds.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:01 AM

      Thanks for the shout out. Said from the beginning you should have been with us. You’re a sports fan. You live in Miami. You’ve suffered through dozens and dozens of Dolphins seasons. We were handed a gift from the Gods a few years ago and thay gift has just gotten better and better. Something like this will NEVER happen again down here.

      Well you have another year to come around. You don’t owe the Knicks anything. It’s okay. It’s not too late. Come aboard.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

        The only way I’d give up on my team is if some how our idiot owner brings back Isiah Thomas. I’m just a loyal person. I will say last night’s game & this playoff run did change my opinion on certain things. 1. LeBron is the best player in the league right now. Dwayne Wade is still a very good player, top 5 in the league, could argue second best. 3. Like them or not, you have to respect that the Heat are the champions.
        However, I still don’t think Mario Chalmers is a top 10 point guard. I still think Bosh is soft. I still think Miami fans are a bunch of arrogant, bandwagon jumpers that were rightfully ridiculed throughout the postseason. It would be nice to see the Heat carry themselves professionally like the Spurs do after a foul or no foul call also.
        But with all that said, much respect to the Heat, the few loyal, knowledgable fans & congratulations.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM

        You don’t like Miami sports fans but YOU are a Miami sports fan. Be a part of the solution. Don’t be the problem. The Knicks don’t care about you and they don’t care about your city. I understand that the Heat don’t care about any one individual fan either, but they absolutely care about your city and your community. Take some pride man! Fans like you who live here need to represent. If you don’t, you can’t complain about the fans here because you’re only complaining about yourself.

  3. mungman69 - Jun 21, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    I wonder how much pressure will be on the Heat to 3 peat?

  4. fanofevilempire - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    I bet you they just went to sleep, drinking all that Moet and jumping around and cheering
    like little kids smiling from ear to ear, well go ahead and partttttty.
    My hats off to the Heat you earned it so enjoy, to my people in Coral Springs and Margate
    I hear you, whoop it.
    To the Spurs, no shame, hold ya head up.

  5. tomtravis76 - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    What a great series. Glad LeBron is starting to stock pile rings. Dwade is such a joy to watch, hope he gets fully healthy this off season, and he has a few more seasons left.

    The big question… what about bosh? The guy is trying to be a true big man, he gave his all on the defensive end in game 7, but his salary does not match his contribution. The heat need more bangers as they move forward in chasing ring after ring. The other teams in the east and west are going to do everything they can to beat them up down low. Would almost like to see bosh walk into riles office, rip up that contract and renegotiate a fair wage that fits his role, so the heat can add pieces to help LeBron and wade out.

    • 1historian - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:03 AM

      IMO Bosh is a talented player but he is not the guy you turn to when it’s time to take the team on your shoulders down the stretch, and I don’t think anyone ever really thought he would be.

  6. jzone954 - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Anybody realize James played every second of the game? I mean wow. Did the same thing last year against pacers when Bosh went down…….that is amazing

    • addictedzone - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      If he had yes that would be amazing, but he had a very brief rest at the start of the second quarter. He did play the rest of the way from that point on though.

    • cuejay - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Look at the box score, it says 45 minutes played for LBJ…3 minute rests…

  7. indianaviking - Jun 21, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    “considering the Heat received more media attention than any North American professional team ever has. ”

    Yeah, no. I’d say at least half of the teams in the NFL receive more attention. The NBA is nice and all that, but media attention – and casual fan interest – doesn’t ramp up until the 2nd round of the playoffs.

    • condor75 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:30 AM

      Whats your point?

  8. logisticalvoices - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    Got to give major props to LeBron. He played like a beast and looked like a legend last night.

  9. jzone954 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Wait canton your a dolphins fan too??? The heck are you a Knicks fan for???? 72was a long time ago is right come aboard bro go heat go dolphins

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      “Canton Bound 13 ” is a Marino tribute.Crazy, I know

      • miamatt - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        You know, I almost made a snide comment that his @handle was about Marino at one point, not realizing that actually was the case.

        Props for him to giving credit, but I can’t get down with ripping Miami fans. There are some weak ones down here, but really, even the game 6 fiasco was really about 200-300 people out of 20,000 leaving. If you wanna call 1-1.5% of Miami sports fans bush-league bandwagoners- which those who left showed themselves to be- go right ahead. But to suggest Heat fans stand out from the crowd as bad is bunk. Most fanbases that we speak about in reverent terms have been built up through generations of fans witnessing dynastic performances- Steelers, Yankees, Celtics, Lakers, you name it. Some of the Miami fanbase are still growing up. In any case, I’m gonna drop a video from the good ol’ days to remind those who have forgotten what this fanbase can be when they really connect with a team. Fine, it’s a from a game almost 30 years old, but can you imagine the refs literally stopping a game because the fans are too loud? In an open air stadium? Heat fans, watch this and see what you have to strive for. Believe in this team, and make sure there is no doubt the players know you do.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2013 at 6:58 PM

        HUGE thumbs up Miamatt. Congrats and enjoy this one

  10. reedme16 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    That was a great series. Lebron stepped up. Happy for him, But I’m especially happy for my favorite player Wade for showing up. He struggled with the knee, Wade aka “3” stepped up big last night as he has done his whole career. And he proved what he used to always say before Lebron got to South Beach, when he would jump on the scores table and yell “This is my house! ” Long before Lebron got there it was “Wade County”. He has his own ring, finals MVP, and arguably should have had an MVP. So anyone thinking he is just Lebrons side kick is mistaken.

    Mad respect to the Spurs. Kind of feel bad for Duncan. Greatest PF ever!

    Still think we should trade Bosh. I don’t praise him for 7 rebs playing against sn undersized team. That money could be used to build elsewhere. No need to be over the cap with Bosh.

    • heat256 - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      I don’t know who Bosh could be traded for that would bring back anyone of value. For all his criticism, he has sacrificed his game the most, played a position he isn’t really built for, and gives it his all. He can be a bit of an enigma, but James and Wade like playing with him, and I am sure that counts for something.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:22 AM

        perfectly said.

      • silencegooddoer - Jun 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        True! IF you believe that Wade, James, and Bosch did NOT plan this union durring the Olympics; than you could argue that if Bosch did not sign, neither would have LeBron. If you remember, Bosch signed with Miami early in the summer of 2010 free agency, while LeBron kept everyone waiting despite Wade and Bosch publicly begging him to not hold out anylonger. Then LeBron announced the “Decision” at the end of the free agency period after all the other free agents had signed so he could have the media’s full attention. This is what made the decision such a bone of contention with the Cavs ownership. There were no free agents left on the market.

  11. heat256 - Jun 21, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Much respect to the Spurs. They showed exactly how the game should be played. They tested MIA in so many ways. MIA showed true resolve. LeBron was amazing, and hopefully shut up all the doubters for good. He’s not MJ, nor is anyone else. He is LeBron James, his own man and player. And we were are truly blessed to be able to watch him up close for these last 3 years. Wade mustered up enough to show he has the will to contribute when he’s hurting. The Heat earned it, and no one can claim otherwise. No asterisks, no BS referee/Stern conspiracy junk. To the haters who just wanted to talk smack just to be “that A-hole guy” (CB13 in particular), you get two big middle fingers. Learn to sit back and enjoy good basketball.

    • nard100 - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      The haters are going to hate no matter what, but when you listen hear LeBron give his final answer this year to critics, I’m sorry, but it is really hard to hate the guy. When he’s playing, he has the humility to look for the hot hand especially when it’s not his own and that’s the reason he’s a champion today. When he wasn’t hitting his shot like Ginobli wasn’t, he didn’t just keep shooting, gave it up to Chalmers, Battier and Wade until he found his shot again and took them. Ginobli wouldn’t give it up and it cost the team in the end. LBJ doesn’t bash his critics, he acknowledges them and uses them to motivate himself.

  12. jzone954 - Jun 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    Oh ok. I thought he played the entire game. Thanks for the clarification

  13. dolphindubs - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Dammit cantonbound, you’re almost making me feel bad for keying in on you in particular with some of my comments.

    Almost. Not entirely. But almost.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      You should feel bad for him. It’s a sports fan tragedy. To invest so much time and energy in to pulling religiously for your hometown team to lose; and then have them win, twice, and in doing so disproving absolutely everything you have based your entire existence for being on the planet is simply catastrophic.

  14. senorpapino - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    Sorry but this was in no way the most pressure packed season of all time for a team. They cruised through the regular season, basically 10 wins clear of their closest competitor in conference. They didn’t even get challenged in the playoffs until the conference finals. Really their pressure season was last year. If they didn’t win last year, it might have been time to go in a different direction.

    • heat256 - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      Gotta disagree. The 27 game win streak, the pressure of defensing your title, with teams going hard after you every night. They win a title last year, and the talk still circles around LeBron possibly falling to 1-3 in the Finals. Game 6. This was a pressure packed season for them. I am sure the next will see the crews being tightened further. Will be fun to see how they respond.

  15. Jeff Larsen - Jun 21, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Wow. Hyperbole and redundancy in the same headline.

  16. indianaviking - Jun 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    There was pressure for sure, but to say the 2013 Heat faced more pressure than any team ever on this continent? That’s a preposterous statement.

  17. harshedmellow - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Battier said it well: feeding your kid’s, making the mortgage, THAT’S pressure.

    I do think the Heat had a Tom of pressure on them, particularly LBJ. But– picture this, sports fans: a Lebron who relaxes just a bit more. Yikes! Because when he’s at his worst IMHO is when he’s nervous and skittery.

    Here’s hoping we get to see him play through ho’s prime years injury-free. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. And that’s pretty amazing!

  18. harshedmellow - Jun 21, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    ….. and I see now that I can’t edit my iPhone typos. D’oh! Note to self: PROOFREAD! :)

  19. messiaheat - Jun 21, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Cantonbound, what a nice surprise! Come aboard. You’re more than welcome too! You coming out and expressing some gratification for the Heat says a lot about you. HOWEVER, I gotta defend the Heat fans! While I can understand SOME of what you say about Heat fans being bandwagoners, you can’t say that about all of us. I was LIVID while watching those fans get up and leave towards the end of game 6. They 100% deserved to get their a$$3$ locked out of the building! How you can give up on your team like that? Win or lose, I would’ve stayed and cheered my a$$ off! Plus we all know how much they spent on those tickets. BOTH teams deserved a standing ovation! The Spurs put us through the ringer, but we came out strong.

    This title was earned, not given.

    Cantonbound, it’s never too late. You obviously have a lot of passion for sports in general and now that you’re done being a LeBron hater, just sit back and enjoy history!

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