Almost two years ago, LeBron James sat on a bar stool at the American Airlines Arena along with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. James boldly stated that the newly-formed Miami heat would win several championships. "Once the game starts, I mean, it's going to be easy," James said.
While he sat at the podium Thursday night after the heat had beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the NBA Finals, James acknowledged that the past two years were far more humbling and difficult than he could've imagined.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done as a basketball player, since I picked up a basketball when I was nine years old," James said. "It's not easy at all."
Heat President Pat Riley is the architect of the James-Wade-Bosh alliance. When the Heat won the 2012 title, he won his eighth championship ring. Including, one as an assistant coach and four as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, one as a player, and now – two as an executive.
"We believe that we built a team that's going to be around for a while, and our goal is to hopefully come back every year," Riley said. "It's always started out as an upstart, you become a contender, and then one day you might become something special, and that's what we're shooting for. All these guys back here have put it on the line."
Wade struggled at times this season. He nearly became undone in the Indiana series before having his knee drained and paying a visit to his college coach, Tom Crean. Having to wait six seasons for another championship win made him more appreciative.
Of the big three, Bosh made the greatest sacrifice, suppressing his game to intertwine with two potent scorers. He also encountered constant jokes about his toughness. When he experienced an abdominal strain in the first game of the second round, Bosh had to deal with the concern that his championship opportunity would be lost in this post-season.
James left Cleveland in a controversial manner because he didn't believe he could win a championship by himself with the Cavaliers. He attempted to prove his critics wrong last year and instead struggled in a six-game defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
"The best thing that happened to me last year was losing in the Finals," James said. "I knew what it was going to take, and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted. You know, it happened one year later."