One game for all the marbles: that is what the Miami Heat face Thursday night when they host the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
After tying the series at three games apiece with an improbable come-from-behind win in Game 6, the Heat's Big Three know that they can start fulfilling their promise of multiple championships with a win on Thursday.
"I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams. And we have an opportunity to do that," LeBron James said Wednesday. "Hasn't been many teams to win back-to-back championships. It's so hard. It's the hardest thing. I said last year it was the hardest thing I've ever done, winning my first. Last year don't even come close to what we've gone through in this postseason and in these Finals."
Miami is lucky to even be in this situation. Down five points with 28 seconds to go, some Heat players could see arena personnel preparing for a post-game trophy presentation, taping off courtside areas and getting ready to give the Larry O'Brien Trophy to San Antonio, not Miami.
But a frantic 6-1 run forced overtime, and the Heat held on for an exhausting 103-100 win. James said Wednesday that although he is aware of the moment, he won't let that awareness affect his play on Thursday.
"I will play Game 7 in my head from now until tomorrow night," James said. "It's just who I am, how I am. But I won't be too serious. I won't go into a bunker when I get back home. But I will be mentally sharp, mentally focused and mentally driven tomorrow night."
His teammates don't seem worried, even though James had what teammate Mike Miller called an "off triple-double" Tuesday (James scored 32 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, but started the night on a 3-for-12 cold streak and did not heat up until his 16-point fourth quarter).
"I expect LeBron to be LeBron," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "He's going to be loose. Usually, in shootaround, he does some dunks that would win any dunk contest if they were televised. That's his way of saying, 'OK, I'm ready to go.' He's going to come here, he's going to listen to his music and he's going to do what LeBron does. If there's one guy we don't have to worry about, it's LeBron."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has implored his team to play in the moment on Thursday, and James parroted his words Wednesday, leaving no doubt that his mind is focused firmly on the prize immediately within his reach.
"We can't worry about what the history books say. That's why it's history," James said. "We have to live in the present. We have to live in the moment. And we have to do whatever it takes to bring that trophy — or to keep that trophy — here in Miami."