LeBron James is a champion once again.
After helping to defeat a resilient Spanish squad in the gold medal game on Sunday, LeBron added yet another piece of hardware to an already impressive collection this summer. It was exactly three months ago, while the Miami Heat were preparing to face the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, when the NBA's worst kept secret was made official and he was able to hoist up his third MVP trophy in a hastily planned press conference right on the home court of the AmericanAirlines Arena.
"Heat nation, we have a bigger goal," James said that day. "This is very overwhelming to me as an individual award. But this is not the award I want, ultimately. I want that championship. That's all that matters to me."
Weeks later, LeBron joined the seven other NBA players who had won at least three MVP trophies in another category. NBA Champion. His poise, determination and utter dominance on both ends of the floor made him the obvious choice for NBA Finals MVP honors.
Seemingly right after the champagne bottles and confetti had been cleaned up, LeBron made his way to Las Vegas on July 5 to being preparing for the Olympics with the rest of the Dream Team. With notable players missing out on the tournament such as Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, along with Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose, it was clear there was pressure on LeBron to lead the team along with Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant to a second straight gold medal in the Olympics. However, after two years of intense pressure to win it all in Miami, LeBron wouldn't seem too fazed by this type of scrutiny and he continued his stellar, and mature, play that flourished in his MVP season with the Heat.
His teammates had their moments during the tournament for sure. Kevin Durant reminded everyone why he's the NBA scoring champ with a USA team record of most points scored in an Olympics tournament and he was the first American to score 30 points in a gold medal game. Carmelo Anthony went bananas against poor Nigeria by setting the U.S. single-game scoring record with 37 points, in just 14 minutes of play no less, and had plenty of great offensive moments while enjoying all the open looks his All-Star teammates gave him.
But without LeBron's versatility, the USA team could have been in big trouble. He led the team in assists even as he was asked to help make up for the absence of big men on the roster, compounded by Blake Griffin's last second injury, by having to guard players like the Gasol brothers. We all know he can score at the jaw dropping rate that Durant and Carmelo can display when they're red hot from the field. He scored 9 of his 20 points in the final four minutes against Lithuania to hold them off at the last minute. And the Dream Team was certainly tested in the gold medal game against Spain when LeBron sat several minutes in the final quarter because of foul trouble. As the Spaniards got a little too close for comfort late in the fourth quarter, coach Mike Krzyzewski wisely inserted LeBron back into the game, although he should have never left the court in the first place since he's one of the best at avoiding fouling out. Nevertheless, he responded with a ferocious dunk after a quick penetration move from the perimeter and a three-pointer over Marc Gasol to essentially seal the win.
Hours later, the team was seen partying hard at a British nightclub in a scene very similar to the night he shared with his Heat teammates at Liv. The King deserves all the praise heading his way after dominating the NBA and then the rest of the world with his play but soon enough Heat training camp will be around the corner and questions will surface as to whether LeBron (and his running mates) will be able to defend the crown. Such is the life for the champion as his peers, and fellow gold medalists, will try and attempt to knock him off the top of the mountain. How will he respond to a new type of pressure as a first-time NBA Champion?
Once the ball gets thrown upwards at mid-court on October 30 against the Boston Celtics to start the NBA season, we'll get our answer to that soon enough.