After a 2nd straight title, Heat and LeBron securing their spots in NBA history

  • Article by: TIM REYNOLDS , AP Basketball Writer
  • Updated: June 21, 2013 - 6:35 PM

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade was walking down the hallway toward the Miami Heat locker room in the wee hours of Friday morning, still in uniform and fussing with the new championship hat atop his head as his team and their families were in the midst of partying the night away.

He stopped briefly and assessed the celebration.

"We're getting pretty good at these," Wade said.

That's understandable, the Heat are getting plenty of practice at throwing themselves end-of-season parties. Four trips to the NBA Finals since 2006, three championships in that span and with the last two titles coming consecutively, it's making the decisions that the Heat and LeBron James made three summers ago look pretty smart.

By topping San Antonio in Game 7 of a back-and-forth NBA Finals on Thursday, the Heat became the sixth franchise in league history to win consecutive championships. It's their third title overall; only four clubs have more. And for James, it capped two seasons where he won all he could — two regular-season MVPs, two titles, two Finals MVPs, even an Olympic gold medal.

"It feels great. This team is amazing. And the vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true," James said. "Through adversity, through everything we've been through, we've been able to persevere and to win back to back championships. It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm happy to be part of such a first-class organization."

James said winning his first title was the toughest thing he's ever done.

It's now the second-toughest. Defending the crown, he said, was even more arduous. He was exhausted when it was over — and still scored 37 points in the finale, more than he posted in any other postseason game this season.

"Believe in LeBron," Heat President Pat Riley said.

Miami did, all the way to the end.

The Heat rolled past Milwaukee in a first-round sweep, needed five games to oust Chicago in the second round, but then went to the seven-game limit against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals and then to the last game again against the Spurs, who actually were 21 seconds away from ending the series in six games before James and the Heat engineered a huge rally.

Without that comeback, a championship-or-bust season would have gone bust.

Instead, legacies were enhanced, more trophies were hoisted, and Miami's place atop the NBA landscape was cemented.

"To be in the championship three years in a row, to win two of those three, is unbelievable," Wade said. "Everybody can't get to the Finals and win six in a row, like win six and not lose one like Michael Jordan. Everyone don't do that. But we are excited about the future of this organization. We are still a good team. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we can stay competitive."

Moves will be made, of course. The Heat have some luxury-tax concerns to address, and it would be a shock if they didn't try to get even better through a trade or free agency.

"All it's about now is what's in front of us," Riley said.

Then again, if James keeps getting better, Miami's place in history will probably only rise.

At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, James has a combination of size, speed and strength that seems unmatched in the NBA world. After Miami lost the 2011 finals to Dallas, James decided to improve his post play by working with Hakeem Olajuwon. Last season, his focus was on enhancing his mid-range jumper, something he continued working on throughout the season with Ray Allen.

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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