It was a good thing there were no more games to play. No matter who won or lost, the season would end Thursday for the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, and that was a blessing, because by the end of an epic Game 7, it is doubtful anyone on either team would have had anything left to give.
LeBron James is a champion again, much to the chagrin of the world, after exploding for 37 points and 12 rebounds in the Heat’s 95-88 win. Manu Ginobili is a goat, submitting one of the all-time stunning individual collapses in the NBA Finals to bring an unsightly end to his proud career — or at least we hope. Chris Bosh gets a second championship ring after going scoreless in the pivotal game and playing overrated defense on Tim Duncan, who at 37 years old delivered another performance worthy of his Hall of Fame pedigree. And they were all spent.
This is the way a final series should be. At no point did tough play cross the line into dirty tricks, and players on both sides were immensely respectful of each other in their comments off the court, disappointing those observers hungry for controversy. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra shared a laugh and a handshake as confetti streamed down from the rafters, and Duncan embraced James for a few long minutes near midcourt. It was a battle, but an honorable one.
The only letdown is that now it is done — mercifully for the players and coaches, unfortunately for those of us who got to watch.
The next few days and weeks will be filled with meaningless nonsense about James’ legacy, how he compares to Michael Jordan (as though we haven’t beaten that dead horse enough) and whether Spoelstra saved his job. Someone will marvel at that irrelevant block of Tiago Splitter in Game 2 or begin the build the silly mythology of the headband from Game 6. It will simply be noise.
For the final 101 minutes of this series — two 48-minute games, plus five bonus minutes of overtime at the end of Game 6 — these teams gave the viewing public everything it could ask for in a finals. Whatever anybody said did not matter. All that mattered was what happened on the court.
What happened, incidentally, was James permanently putting to rest the ridiculous notion that he is not a clutch player. His second-chance 3-pointer set up Ray Allen‘s heroics in Game 6, and his pull-up jump shot with 27 seconds left in Game 7 to extend Miami’s lead to four points will be replayed in slow motion in highlight montages for eternity.
Yes, watching the Heat fans, dressed all in white because none of them owned an item of Heat paraphernalia prior to 2010, was somewhat annoying. For Celtics fans in particular, seeing Allen celebrate another title with a different team had to be bitter. Kawhi Leonard deserved something other than a handshake and a pat on the rear for his incredible two-way play all series. Plus, honestly, nobody can stand Mario Chalmers.
It is not difficult to ignore all that, however, and appreciate Game 7 for being all that basketball is supposed to be. The offseason is here, and with it comes the welcome rest everyone involved deserves. Yet as Popovich cracked in his pregame interview, “you can only grow so many tomatoes and read so many books” before the competitive urge takes over again.
The NBA playoffs are so long, but when they get it right, it can seem like they are over so quickly. This postseason never disappointed, and while many fans will be dissatisfied with any outcome that results in James hoisting a trophy, they cannot be upset with the product on the floor. It’s a shame for most of the world that it’s over, but not for the players. They earned the rest.
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