The Heat defeats Chicago in five games to earn first trip back to the NBA finals since 2006.
So finally we get to what it was all about last summer when LeBron James went on a free agent tour before ultimately jilting the city that had supported him since ninth grade.
James longed for a legitimate shot at winning championships.
James, easily the most dominating player in the NBA, didn’t feel he could it do it by himself in Cleveland. He needed help. So in a poorly put together infomercial, James announced to the world that he was taking his “talents to South Beach” to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The three, James hoped, would form a dynasty with the Miami Heat.
Less than a year later, James and the Heat are now just a step away after getting past Chicago in five games of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami rallied past the Bulls 83-80 Thursday night to earn the spot opposite the Dallas Mavericks in next week’s NBA finals.
This first real shot at NBA greatness is what James envisioned last summer when he left Miami for Cleveland.
"I understand a lot of the backlash that came at me going to Miami," said James, who was swept from the NBA finals by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. "But understand also, I did what was best for me, best for my family and best for me being a professional athlete."
Now comes the difficult part as James and the Heat will have to get past a Dallas Mavericks team that seems on a mission to complete the desired journey. No one has been able to guard 7-foot perimeter player Dirk Nowitzki in these playoffs as the Mavs have seemed to be the best in the league these last two rounds.
But you have to figure James is now surrounded by a much better supporting cast, which will give the Heat a chance to win it all in their first step to becoming a dynasty. Game 1 of the Finals is Tuesday in Miami.
"There's no sense of relief right now," James said to the media following Thursday night’s eliminating Game 5. "We've still got work to do. We'll look at this moment tonight, have a little bit of time tomorrow to go over this moment, what we just accomplished. But we get ready for Dallas very soon. We don't take for granted this win and take for granted being Eastern Conference champions."
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)