“Get the legend up here,” James shouted.
Russell walked to the front of the room as a few people, mostly Heat employees and family members, clapped. He shook hands with the Heat stars, then turned around to face the cameras and said something to James that was barely audible to those even a few feet away.
“You earned this one,” Russell said.
James’ grin became even broader, and camera shutters kept on whirring. Suddenly, that oft-mocked, oft-replayed “not two, not three, not four” answer James gave during the Heat celebration of their free agency coup in 2010 doesn’t look like such a punch line anymore.
“I always felt that when he got up to five, six, seven that he was joking a little bit, but the media decided to take him very seriously,” Heat managing general partner Micky Arison said. “I think right now he’s real happy with two and next year he’ll be worried about three.”
James has played 10 seasons now. Including playoffs, his scoring average is 27.6, third-best in league history behind only Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Since the league began charting plus-minus (the point differential when a player is on the court), James’ teams have outscored opponents by 3,861 points with him in regular-season and playoff games. Second-best on that list? Wade, at 2,301 points. That gap is simply huge.
With an average season next year, he’ll move into the Top 25 in all-time regular-season scoring. He got more rebounds per game this season than ever before, shot the 3-pointer better than ever before, punctuating that by making five in Game 7 of the finals. And here’s what might be truly frightening for opponents: For the sixth straight year, James’ shooting percentage got better.
“Hopefully people will leave him alone a little more now,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “He takes a lot of heat, I think undeservedly. He’s the best player on the planet. And hopefully now with two titles, he’ll get more the benefit of the doubt. But, you know, he’s the best. He’s the best right now.”