MIAMI (Reuters) - LeBron James and the Miami Heat were hailed on Friday after clinching a second straight NBA championship at the end of an enthralling seven game NBA Finals.
James, who scored a game-high 37 points with 12 rebounds, was named the Finals MVP for the second straight year after hurting the San Antonio Spurs with his mid-range jump shots and delivering a performance that earned him widespread praise.
“This was one of the best NBA Finals ever, and one of the great Game Sevens ever,” wrote Michael Rosenberg for Sports Illustrated, who described James as “the best basketball player in the world”.
Such superlatives littered media reports of the Heat’s 95-88 victory on Thursday which sparked loud celebrations on the streets of downtown Miami.
“LeBron James at last seized control of his own narrative, leaving nothing to chance and no more room for debate,” wrote Howard Beck in the New York Times.
The Spurs, who had been half a minute away from clinching the title in Game Six, fought Miami all the way on Thursday and Heat players went out of their way to praise their opponents, with James embracing Tim Duncan in the post-game celebrations.
“They pushed the Heat to the limit and elevated the elegance of the sport, the grace, the competitive ferocity and sportsmanship,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
“As epic as these seven games had been - a Game Six that’ll be remembered as maybe the greatest Finals game - this series was a referendum on everything basketball ought to be at the highest level,” he added.
The debate about the Heat has long been whether they could make the ‘Big Three’ of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, brought together in 2010, into a truly dominant force.
Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote wrote that the second title in a row, had ended that discussion about the wisdom of the team’s 2010 free agency coups.
“It validates once and for all LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland and underlines his place in the sport’s history. It verifies that the Big Three blueprint has succeeded. And it suggests that a ‘three-peat’ is hardly an outlandish dream.”
The debate over just where James ranks in the list of basketball’s greats will roll on for years to come, but amid the accolades there was also a call for the player to be given a rest from the constant talk-show scrutiny of his every play and utterance.
“Hopefully people will leave him alone a little more now,” said Miami’s Shane Battier, who sank six three pointers in the game.
“He takes a lot of heat, I think undeservedly. He’s the best player on the planet. And hopefully now with two titles, he’ll get more the benefit of the doubt.”
Reporting By Simon Evans; editing by Toby Davis