The final score of 121-106 will be forever misleading to history, but there was a point in Game 5 of these NBA Finals where it didn't seem so impossible that the Thunder might mount some significant comeback, forcing the series back to Oklahoma City for what was certain to be a dramatic and tense Game 6 (and, dare to dream, Game 7). The halftime deficit was only 10 points, but midway through the third quarter, as the Heat was slowly pulling away, LeBron James drove down the length of the floor for what looked like a sure uncontested layup. Derek Fisher essentially shoulder-checked James from the strong side and the two men bounced off in opposite directions. The call from the referees was a flagrant foul on Fisher, who had not shattered into a fine mist from the bodily contact and so argued his case to Danny Crawford. The sense of inexorable momentum was undeniable.
Then, with 3:10 left in the third, Serge Ibaka shoved Chris Bosh out of the lane as James Harden drove in for a layup. Immediately, at the other hand, a gimpy Mike Miller, with shards of vertebrae no doubt swishing through his spinal column, sank his fifth three of the night on five attempts. The Heat had a 88-63 lead with 15 minutes of game clock to go, but everyone knew this was long over.
For good measure, Miller hit his sixth and seventh threes of the night to open the fourth quarter. The Heat led by 27 points, and from there on, the reminder of the game was all academic. In an NBA season that almost looked doomed before it started, the Heat ended it by showing everyone what an incredible assembling of talent and determination can do. The Thunder did not give this series away. The Heat unequivocally played the better ball.
So, we now live in a world where LeBron James has won an NBA title, and everyone is going to have to come to grips with that fact in some way. There can't be many sane people that truly doubted James would ever reach this point. The NBA is nothing like the NFL, where a Dan Marino can excel for so many years but still miss the mountaintop. Sure, there have been players like Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing for whom a ring would always prove elusive, but James has always been in some other class, ever since he entered the league nine years ago. His two-year, post-"Decision" status as Player You Most Love To Hate never had any bearing on that fact, not in any truly meaningful way. His triple-double performance in Game 5—26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists—will be remembered for years to come.
LeBron James is now an NBA champion, a Finals MVP, an icon of Miami sports for the reminder of his career. He may never win two or three or four or five or six or seven NBA titles. But like it or not, he earned this one.