« Thursday update: LeBron feels fine; Tannehill gets lots of first-team work as Fins wrap up offseason work | Main | Taking you inside the joyous Heat locker early Friday: players, Arison, Gabrielle Union speak out »

Heat gets Super Bowl-type rating here; Lots of Heat reaction; Hall of Famers on LeBron

All Heat in this space today, on a euphoric night in South Florida.

### In South Florida, 40.3 percent of homes with TV sets were tuned to the game - the highest in Heat history and on par with the 40.6 local rating for the Super Bowl last season. For perspective, Dolphins games last season averaged a 17.7.

### LeBron James picked quite a moment for his first triple double of the season. He and James Worthy are the only players whose first triple double of the season came in an NBA title-clinching win. And he’s the fifth player to have a triple-double in a series-clinching Finals win – the first since Tim Duncan in 2003.

This moment, James said, “is everything and more. I dreamed about this opportunity and this moment for a long time, including last night, including today. My dream has become a reality now, and it’s the best feeling I ever had.

“The best thing that happened to me last year was us losing The Finals, and me playing the way I played. It was the best thing to ever happen to me in my career because basically I got back to basics. It humbled me. I knew what it was going to have to take, and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted. It happened just one year later.”

How hard was it to win this championship? “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a basketball player, since I picked up a basketball when I was nine year old.”

### James was asked what he has learned about himself. “The biggest thing,” he said. “is you can’t control what people say about you, what people think about you. You just have to be true to yourself and true to the people around you and your loved ones. I took one week – I think one and a half, maybe two weeks off after we lost the NBA Finals, and I just got in the gym and I got back to basics. It just shows when you’re committed and you give everything to the game, the game pays off and it gives back to you.”

### Said a jubilant owner Micky Arison: “LeBron’s the best! He’s gotten so much crap and he doesn’t deserve it.”

### Mike Miller, who had a surreal, storybook night with seven three-pointers, said he faces a decision about whether to retire. “I’ve got to make the best decision, not only for the organization, for the players, for the Arisons who believed in me, for Coach Riley for bringing me here, and then my family. Just got to make sure it’s the best one.

“If it is, I couldn’t picture a better point to go out on top like this as a champion. But we’ll see. We’ll visit the doctors and see what parts work and don’t, and go from there. Through the injuries, I'm just glad they didn't take me back to the barn and put me down.”

### Dwyane Wade, who score 20: “Winning the championship in 2006 was amazing. Now six years after that, I’ve been through a lot in my personal life, and I’ve been through a lot in my professional life, and this means so much more. From the first day, from Christmas Day, we were on a mission, and that mission was not complete until tonight.”

### Wade admitted that when this team came together "we all expected it to be a little easier than it was. As much as it hurt, we had to go through that pain and that suffering."

### Wade, who passed the proverbial "team leader" baton to LeBron James earlier this season, said: "This year I know I'm playing with the best player in the world, and that doesn't take anything away from me at all. It was hard for me to do it, and no one will understand, but it was easy for me to do it for this team."

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON JAMES

Sometimes, when you’re witnessing greatness, it’s not easy to place it in historical context. So how does James’ postseason stack up historically?

We asked five Hall of Famers, with some calling it arguably the best since Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

“It’s probably one of the top 10 playoffs of all time,” Magic Johnson told us Thursday. “LeBron is now the most unstoppable force in the NBA, the best player in the league. Before, my biggest knock was he was playing off his God-gifted talent. He was just the best athlete. But he didn’t play with his head to match that. Now he [does]. Watch out – this guy is going to set the league on fire for a long time.”

ESPN’s Chris Mullin ranks James’ postseason “up there with the all-time performances, with every great player that ever played.” Some numbers to put his postseason in perspective:

### Only two players have averaged 30 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a single postseason: Oscar Robertson (1963) and James twice (2009 and this year).

### James’ player efficiency rating for the entire postseason, using ESPN’s formula, is third-highest among players who reached the Finals in a particular season (minimum 500 postseason minutes), behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

“You’re talking only Oscar, Wilt and Jordan comparable as far as points, rebounds, assists,” Hubie Brown said. “And we’re not even talking defense. And to play 44 minutes a game at this level? People take that for granted.”

### James on Thursday broke his own record by scoring at least 25 points in a 15th consecutive playoff games. He fell three points short of becoming the fifth player to score at least 700 points in a single postseason.

### Of the leading points-producers in each of the past 43 postseasons (since 1970), James’ scoring average (30.3) would rank 14th, behind seven seasons from  Jordan, two from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and one apiece from Hakeem Olajuwon, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson.

### If you compare the leader in points from every postseason, James’ scoring average is highest since Iverson’s 32.8 in 2001. But Iverson shot 38.9 percent; James 50.0.

### This playoff run by James is better, statistically, than any long postseason authored by Kobe Bryant, who won two of his five titles without O’Neal. Their point and assist totals are comparable – comparing James in 2012 with Bryant’s best work – but James’ rebounding and shooting percentage are far superior. Bryant shot under 46 percent in the playoffs during the two years he was Finals MVP.

### James is producing the best across-the-board playoff numbers since O’Neal averaged 29.8 points and 14.4 rebounds in the 2000 to 2002 playoffs. James’ points, rebounds (9.7) and assists (5.6) add to up to 45.6 – a number exceeded in the past 25 years by only Jordan (five times), O’Neal (twice) and Olajuwon (once). Tim Duncan (45.3) was close in 2003. Wade was at 40.0 in 2006.

ESPN’s Jack Ramsay and Heat assistant Bob McAdoo cannot think of a better playoff run – post-Jordan – than this one, though Ramsay ranks Bryant’s 2009 and ‘10 as comparable.

“This is better than Shaq,” Ramsay said. “What you see is LeBron really has lifted his game in areas he was deficient in. Taking the ball to the basket more frequently, more productively. Posting up. He made a commitment to defense this year.”

CHATTER

### Chris Bosh, on James: “He’s made some mistakes. The part I really admire is he’s learned from his mistakes. His passion and will to win have been spectacular in these playoffs. This meant everything to him. I’m really proud to call myself a teammate of his. It’s just been unbelievable to witness.”

### Here’s how James’ and Jordan’s career playoff stats compare: Jordan averaged more points (33.4 to 28.5) and shot better (48.7 to 46.8). But James averaged more rebounds (8.7 to 6.4) and assists (6.6 to 5.7). Surprisingly, Charles Barkley said Thursday night that James is the better all-around player.

### James Jones, 31, who has two years and $3 million left on his contract, said Thursday he expects to play next season but hasn’t ruled out retirement.

### Don’t underestimate the importance of how the Heat treats its players and alums; that has helped cultivate the family environment that appealed to James and other free agents.

Examples abound: Owner Micky Arison giving financial help to Tim Hardaway when his house was nearly foreclosed on last year… A couple hundred Heat employees showing up on Haslem’s lawn for a surprise birthday party… The loyalty Riley and Arison show in retaining or even promoting longtime employees.… Riley inviting players and their families to an annual Christmas party and gala at his home. “Never saw that before,” Bosh marveled Wednesday.

Much has changed since the early years, when owners Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham stopped serving food on team flights. As one original Heater noted, “Glen Rice said, ‘Not even peanuts? It’s tradition!”

Now, Heat players get a choice of chicken or fish or beef on most flights. Everything is first class. Shane Battier said the Heat ranks among the league’s best in providing “whatever it takes to help us perform at our highest level - hot tubs, massage therapists. You would be surprised how far behind the curve some teams are in that. But a lot is expected of us.” Most demanding place he has played? “Easily,” Battier said.

It all paid off Thursday night.

"It's about damn time!" LeBron said.

Touche!

Comments