MIAMI - In the end, with the finish line in sight and his legacy in line, LeBron James found another gear. And when he finds another gear, as the Oklahoma City Thunder quickly found out, there are few players who have ever played who can keep up with him.
On June 21, 2012, James finally answered his critics, winning his first NBA championship in his ninth season, dominating the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 15-point Game 5 victory. James had help, of course - Mike Miller rose from the dead to score 23 points in 23 minutes, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each had more than 20 points - but James was the story. He got a triple double - his first of the season - and finally lived up to the promise he had shown since even before he entered the league.
In leading the Miami Heat to their second title, James also helped to vanquish the potential dynasty before it could even begin. During the 2012 Finals, a lot was made of how Oklahoma City's Big Three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden could provide a foil to Miami's Big Three for years to come. Instead, after the Game 5 annihilation, the Thunder panic-traded Harden, convinced they couldn't afford him in the offseason. What should have been a potential great East-West rivalry was nipped in the bud.
The Heat rode James to another championship the next year - with James carrying even more of a load as Wade started to break down after years of charging the lane. If it was possible, James was even better in the 2013 Finals than he was in 2012. He tasted a championship, and it made him hungrier, and better. It's possible that his win in the 2012 Finals was just the start, was the beginning of his famous promise "not 1 title, not 2, not 3..." After winning in 2013, anything seemed possible.
So the question becomes, does this Game 5 get on the list as the greatest June 21 moment in American sports history? Miami's Game 5 win was monumental, and as the years go on and James' accomplishments continue to grow, this game might take on additional importance. But it still doesn't top the chaotic Game 7 of the 1988 Finals as the greatest June 21 moment of all time. James was great, Miami was dominant, but the game doesn't compare to a Game 7 that ended with one hall-of-famer body checking another as fans flooded the court.