It took a year longer than they would have hoped, but the Miami Heat's Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh wrapped up their first championship together, putting them on their way to fulfilling the lofty goals they set for themselves when they joined forces in the summer of 2010.
The schizophrenic reaction to LeBron James' televised Decision to join Wade and Bosh in Miami almost seems quaint now. When observers weren't predicting that the trio would steamroll the opposition and challenge the Jordan-era Bulls for historical dominance, they were claiming the three did not have enough of a complete team surrounding them to even win an Eastern Conference Title, much less multiple NBA crowns.
Even though the Heat came within two wins of a title in 2011, the critics were hardly quieted. The heartbreak of last season's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals left Chris Bosh in tears, and sent James into a depression that kept him from leaving his house for two weeks. Dwyane Wade escaped the harshest criticism thanks to the fact that he had already won a title in 2006,
At the beginning of the 2011/12 season, the Heat seemed primed to make another Finals run, but questions lingered. Was the addition of Shane Battier enough to put the Heat over the top? Would the Heat's small front-court be a liability in the playoffs? Had Dwyane Wade lost a step over the past few years.
Miami cruised to a 2-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Big Three were once again the most productive trio in the NBA. Wade, James and Bosh combined for 68.4 points, 21.0 rebounds and 12.8 assists per game, while the Heat were the fourth-best team in the league in terms of point differential.
A rematch with the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals seemed like a foregone conclusion. Instead, the Bulls' star PG Derrick Rose tore his ACL, and the Heat ended up facing the Boston Celtics in the ECF.
After jumping out to a quick 2-0 series lead, the Heat lost three straight to Boston, and Miami's season of redemption appeared to be over before the final act was even supposed to start. Chris Bosh, who had missed almost all of the second round and four games in the ECF, showed just how crucial he is to the Heat's success with his absence due to an abdominal injury.
But with elimination staring his team in the face, LeBron James put together a run of play that could go down as one of the all-time great playoff performances. First, he scored 45 points on the road in Game 6 to even the series, then he closed it out with a 31-point, 12-rebound performance in Game 7. Not to be outdone, Wade put up 23 points and 6 assists, while Bosh scored 19 points off the bench, including a trio of three-pointers.
James continued to dominate in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder and scoring champ Kevin Durant. With Bosh seemingly fully recovered from his injury, the Heat once again played the dynamic, exciting basketball expected of them after the Big Three joined forces. Wade and James combined on furious fast breaks, Bosh and Wade used the pick-and-roll to shred the defense, James sucked in defenders from the post to create easy dishes to wide-open teammates on the wing.
By the time James hit the go-ahead three-pointer in Game 4 (while hobbled by leg cramps, no less), the Big Three's reversal from front-running underachievers to the Three Kings of the NBA was complete. A win in the fifth game of the Finals was just the feather in the cap that sealed it.
When the Heat unveiled the Big Three for the first time in 2010 in the now-infamous American Airlines Arena pep rally, James said there was no limit to what they could accomplish together in Miami. "Not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7" championships was their goal, James said. They may not play together long enough to win 8 championships, but the Big Three can now safely say they are on their way.