MIAMI — As far as coronations go, this one lacked some of the pomp and circumstance you might be used to. But the finish was everything it was supposed to be for one man.
One by one, members of the Miami Heat walked to center court at AmericanAirlines Arena to collect their 2012 championship rings and take a fan shower before Monday’s season opener against the Boston Celtics.
The last man to be announced was LeBron James, the reigning MVP and Finals MVP, the man whose breakthrough season and playoff performance carried the Heat to their second title in team history. It wasn’t until then, when he turned to that screaming crowd, moments after Heat icon and fan fave Dwyane Wade had made his way to center court amid a thunderous ovation, that it became clear that the transfer of power from one superstar to the other was complete.
This is still “Wade County” and no one will ever forget Wade’s scintillating performance during The Finals in 2006, when the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks riding the wave of Wade’s mercurial performance. But make no mistake, this is King James country now. And that was never more evident than during the ring ceremony, when James was accorded the treatment you’d expect for a man who had to prove himself a champion before being received as one.
While the Heat were busy collecting their bling the Celtics remained in the visitor’s locker room, staying away from the ceremony they tried to prevent when they pushed the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals last year.
A scheduling quirk, the festivities kicked off at 7:15 p.m., allowed Celtics coach Doc Rivers to keep his team inside and away from the madness.
But the walls of the arena surely weren’t thick enough to completely drown out a raucous crowd that arrived far earlier than usual to celebrate their 2012 championship run one more time.
The lasting image, though, from the pregame festivities was the sight of James whipping the crowd into a frenzy one more time as his name was called and he made his way to center court. He spent two years making a case to be treated as Miami’s conquering hero, a player worthy of championship praise.
He looked as comfortable as ever in that moment on this night.