Workout partners, NBA Finals foes, and in a few weeks, Olympic teammates.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant were together from the delayed start to the quick finish of this shortened NBA season, sharing a lengthy embrace moments after James’ Heat beat Durant’s Thunder in Game 5 of the Finals to clinch the series.
Humbled last year in his first attempt in Miami, James allowed himself only a couple of weeks off before returning to the gym. He invited Durant to join him, not realizing they would be on a much bigger stage than his Ohio home so quickly.
“I envisioned it, but I didn’t know it was going to happen,” James said. “But to see a few months later that we was going to meet each other in the finals, it was a great moment for myself and for him.”
Get used to it.
The Heat and Thunder are likely to be back in the Finals again, perhaps as soon as next season, when James gets to see how it feels to defend a title and Durant inherits his role as the best player without one.
“You know, this is not the last time we’ll see the Oklahoma City,” James said. “I wouldn’t be surprised – this won’t be the last time we see them in the finals.”
The Heat were too good this time around, finishing off the Thunder with a 121-106 victory on Thursday night. James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, then picked up all nine votes in balloting for the MVP award and one tip of the cap from Durant.
“I’m not one for giving guys credit during the season, but it’s over with, and that guy is an unbelievable player and an unbelievable person,” Durant said.
The James-Durant matchup, together with all the attention the Heat already drew, gave the NBA one last triumph in a season that was already better than it expected. The teams delivered in their first Finals matchup, drawing the Finals’ highest TV ratings since 2004 to watch James outduel Durant for the Larry O’Brien trophy and the title as best player in the game.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he will soon have his ailing left knee examined, and acknowledged that surgery may be a possibility, which could keep him out of this summer’s Olympic Games. … Jeremy Lin and three other players will maintain valuable rights in free agency after an arbitrator’s ruling. The Players Association said that arbitrator Kenneth Dam affirmed its position that players claimed off waivers can use their “Bird” and “Early Bird” rights. The union argued that Lin, Knicks teammate Steve Novak, the Clippers’ Chauncey Billups and Portland’s J.J. Hickson should be covered by the exceptions that allow clubs to exceed their salary caps to re-sign their own players. The NBA said it would appeal the ruling.