June 21, 2012, 10 years ago today: LeBron James collects a triple-double as the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 to win the NBA Finals four games-to-one. It was James’ first NBA championship, two years after the much-criticized “Decision” TV special that announced his departure from Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. James added the Finals MVP award to his regular season MVP honor, averaging more than 30 points a game in the postseason. It was supposed to be the start of something big.
After the “Decision,” there was a huge Welcome Party in Miami for James, Wade and Bosh. Egged on by the emcee about the Heat winning multiple NBA championships, LeBron infamously declared that there would be “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” Well, there were two, as Miami would win another title in 2013. A year later, James would opt out of the final season of his Heat contract and return to Cleveland, a city that had scorned him in 2010 but gratefully welcomed him back.
LeBron has since won NBA championships with the Cavaliers in 2016 and the L.A. Lakers in 2020 (during the COVID Bubble). The title with the Cavs was the pinnacle of his career, as it was not a superteam like the Heat, nor like the one he has tried to assemble in L.A. James was the centerpiece in 2016, and he rallied Cleveland to defeat the formidable Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Cavs had been down three games-to-one and became the first team in NBA history to overcome that deficit in the Finals.
James’ legacy will probably be defined by his NBA titles. Michael Jordan had six. LeBron has four—and at the age of 37, with the Lakers struggling to build any kind of cohesiveness, he is unlikely to win another. It’s easy to diss James right after Stephen Curry matched him with his fourth NBA championship. Curry has done it all with one team, the Warriors. But whereas Curry just won his first NBA Finals MVP award, James captured that honor in each of his championship seasons. LeBron is still going to be the one in the debate versus Michael Jordan for basketball’s G.O.A.T.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)