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The Miami Heat are the NBA champions. Last night in Miami, the Heat used a second half surge to put away the Oklahoma City Thunder in the most lopsided game of the series. The final score: 121-106. The Heat won the series four games to one. Of course, this means the most scrutinized athlete in American sports, LeBron James, finally has his first championship after almost a decade of stardom and controversy. From Miami, NPR's Tom Goldman starts our coverage.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTS BROADCAST)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There it is. Mike Miller and the Miami Heat are champions of the NBA.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: What? Does everything have to be about LeBron James? Actually, it does, and it will be in a minute. But I just thought it might be nice to give 32-year-old Mike Miller his due. We probably should give him a bed. Miller's been battling ankle and hernia and back problems, and when he checked into last night's game, he was shuffling like an old man. He then proceeded to nail seven of eight three-pointers. He totaled 23 points in the performance of a lifetime, which he, of course, downplayed afterwards.
MIKE MILLER: You know, everyone's dealing with something. And, you know, through the injuries and - I'm just glad they didn't take out me back to the barn and put me down.
GOLDMAN: So were the Heat, who danced and sprayed champagne in their happy locker room. A lot of guys earned the right to dance and spray, because it was the quintessential team win. Along with Miller, Chris Bosh had 24 points, guard Dwayne Wade had 20, and he won a second championship. He led Miami to a title six years ago.
DWAYNE WADE: I'm going to enjoy this one a lot more than I enjoyed 2006, because when you get there early, you say, ah, man, yeah. We're going to do this again next year. No, this is not guaranteed.
GOLDMAN: Meaning LeBron James, savor your first.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
GOLDMAN: The game was really over in the third quarter, when the Heat used a 26-9 run to take a 24-point lead into the final period. With three minutes left in the game, LeBron James came out. He beamed. He hugged. He hopped up and down, celebrating another great performance.
His 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists were an exclamation point on a postseason in which he transformed himself into a focused, bull-of-a-player who time and again drove to the basket. But, of course, he was really celebrating a title he called the hardest thing he'd ever done.
LEBRON JAMES: You know, my dream has become a reality now, and it's, you know, the best feeling I've ever had.
GOLDMAN: Sweetness is greatest when it's preceded by a ton of bitterness, and James certainly has had that over the past couple of years: the traumatic exit from Cleveland, the bungled decision and the words I'm taking my talents to South Beach that turned James and his new teammates into the league's villains, then last year's flame-out in the finals loss to Dallas. That underachieving performance, James says, was the culmination of all the bad.
JAMES: A lot of people were saying that I was a selfish person and a selfish player. You know, it got to me. You know, and all last year I tried to, you know, prove people wrong, prove you guys wrong, and, you know, it wasn't me. At the end of the day, I was basically fighting against myself.
GOLDMAN: With the fight over and James, in his words, trusting himself as a player and person again, what on earth are sportswriters going to write about? Maybe a budding rivalry? In the end, Miami dispatched Oklahoma City easily, but the other Heat victories in the series were close. There's a nucleus of very young and talented Thunder players who huddled up on the court amidst the falling confetti. Point guard Russell Westbrook.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: You know, we hugged each other and told each other to embrace this feeling and remember this feeling. You know, we kind of looked around and just, you know, we got to get better, find a way to get back here.
GOLDMAN: Odds are good they will. And when they do, Miami may be waiting. You remember how James came to Miami and promised multiple championships? Well, he's got one, and it sure seems like he's figured out how to win more.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.