''It was the hardest thing I've ever done as a basketball player,'' James said. ''You just put a lot of hard work into it and you hope that one day it will pay off for you.''
This time, with a chance to clinch, the Heat took control in the second quarter, briefly lost it and blew the game open again in the third behind their role players, James content to pass to wide-open 3-point shooters while the Thunder focused all their attention on him.
The disappointment of losing to Dallas in six games a year ago vanished in a blowout of the demoralized Thunder, who got 32 points and 11 rebounds from Durant.
Bosh and Wade, the other members of the Big Three who sat alongside James as he promised titles at his Miami welcoming party, both had strong games. Bosh, who wept as the Heat left their own court after losing Game 6 last year, finished with 24 points and Wade scored 20. The Heat also got a huge boost from Mike Miller, who made seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points.
That all made it easier for James, the most heavily scrutinized player in the league since his departure from Cleveland, when he announced he was ''taking his talents to South Beach'' on a TV special called ''The Decision'' that was criticized everywhere from water coolers to the commissioner's office. James has said he wishes he handled things differently, but few who watched the Cavs fail to assemble championship talent around him could have argued with his desire to depart.
He found in Miami a team where he never had to do it alone, though he reminded everyone during this sensational postseason run that he still could when necessary. He got support whenever he needed it in this series, from Shane Battier's 17 points in Game 2 to Mario Chalmers' 25 in Game 4.
In the clincher it was Miller, banged up from so many injuries that he limped from the bench to scorer's table when he checked in. He made his fourth 3-pointer of the half right before James' fast-break basket capped a 15-2 run that extended Miami's lead to 53-36 with 4:42 remaining in the first half.