LeBron James was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 NBA Finals on Thursday night, after his Miami Heat finished off a 121-106 Game 5 victory to complete a 4-1 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in more than 44 minutes per game over the course of the five-game series victory. He made 51 of 108 field-goal attempts (47.2 percent) and 38 of 46 free throws (82.6 percent). After posting a triple-double in the Game 5 win — 26 points (9-for-19 shooting), 13 assists, 11 rebounds — James accepted the MVP trophy from the man after whom it is named, Hall of Famer and legendary Boston Celtics champion Bill Russell, as chants of "MVP! MVP!" cascaded down from the stands of the AmericanAirlines Arena. Wearing a 2011-12 NBA championship hat and T-shirt, James spoke with ESPN's Stuart Scott.
"LeBron James, MVP of the Finals. Given everything you've been through, when the clock hit triple-zeroes, what's the first thing that ran through your mind?" Scott asked.
James took a second, shook his head to the right, then spoke.
"It's about damn time," the MVP answered, smiling as the crowd roared. "It's about damn time."
The championship win, the first of James' nine-year NBA career, came just one year after he struggled mightily in a six-game NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks. In that series, James often seemed tentative, failing to bring his estimable talents to bear in the latter stages of games as his Heat allowed a 2-1 lead to slip away against a deeper, more balanced Mavericks squad. This year, he was anything but, controlling the action from tipoff to final buzzer and forcing the Thunder to try to solve the myriad problems his multifaceted game can create. They could not.
"Going back to last year's Finals — the way it ended, the way you struggled, the ton of criticism that came your way in so many different ways — what's the one thing that was said or written that bothered you the most?" Scott asked.
"That I was selfish," James answered. "That was the only thing that bothered me. A lot of people said that I was selfish, that I was a selfish person, a selfish basketball player. You know, I strive on being a team player, doing whatever it takes to help this team win. But at the same time, I use it as motivation. And I'm happy that I was able to make enough plays that I was able to put ourselves in position to win this championship."
"You said that last year, you were trying to prove something, and this year, you realized you didn't have to do that," Scott said. "So how do you refocus your mind? How did you do that?"
"I just went back to the basics," James said. "I knew what got me to this point, and that was hard work and dedication, and I never had to prove anything to anyone. You know, in my first seven years, I just went out and let the game take care of itself.
"And last year, I tried to prove something to everybody, and I played with a lot of hate," James continued. "And that's not the way I play the game of basketball. I play it with a lot of love, and a lot of passion, and that's what I got back to this year."
After exiting the game with three minutes remaining and the Heat holding a commanding 118-96 lead, James began to celebrate with his teammates and coaches on the bench — smiling, bouncing, dancing and joyous. He looked much more like the LeBron James of his carefree early years in Cleveland than the more stoic version of recent vintage.
"We saw you on the broadcast, seconds left in the game — what was going on on the bench in your show of just unbridled emotion?" Scott asked.
"I mean, uh ... this right here is the happiest day of my life," James said, the crowd again rising to meet him. "And I wouldn't want to spend it with nobody else in the world besides my teammates, these fans — oh, my God, you guys are unbelievable — and this is a dream come true."
Video via CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver.
More NBA Finals content on Yahoo! Sports:
• Experts and fans take to Twitter for reaction to Miami Heat's championship
• Video: Kevin Durant cries after Heat eliminate Thunder to win NBA title
• Mike Miller plays through pains to lift Heat in Game 5