LeBron James looked at the crowd, knowing he had just a few moments left on the court for the season.
He waved his arms to them. They roared back. Moments later, he was atop the stage at center court, wearing a champions' hat and T-shirt, and waving a champions' towel.
He smiled. He danced.
For the first time in nine years, he enjoyed the ultimate relief. Maligned for so long, by so many, it brought him to this moment. On Thursday night -- with a triple-double, no less, 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds -- LeBron James got his NBA title. Fittingly, he soon got a second trophy to go with it -- NBA Finals MVP.
''You can't win,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, speaking about James, ''unless you win.''
That's no longer an issue.
The man who was called heartless, callous, narcissistic, cowardly and selfish -- and that was just in one scorned, angry letter from Dan Gilbert, the man who used to pay him to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers -- will forever be called something else.
He's a champion.
''When he gets involved in something, business, basketball, he puts everything he has into it,'' longtime associate Maverick Carter said. ''And this year, during the playoffs, he took it up another notch. He dedicated himself even more. I don't think he's any more dedicated than he was last year, but he found ways this year to channel it better, to limit his distractions and it raised his focus.''
It raised the city of Miami, and raised the Heat back to the mountaintop as well.
And next fall, James will be there when they raise a second championship banner.
''He's one of a kind,'' Heat forward Shane Battier said. ''One of a kind.''