It wasn't overwhelming, but many of us who follow basketball closely noticed something of a shift in the attitude towards LeBron James around 11:45 p.m. ET Thursday.
Nobody can say the LeBron haters are gone -- a quick scan of Twitter or the dreaded sports comment boards (the Thunderdome of the Internet) show that the hostility is still alive and well.
However, in delivering his first NBA title in a near-unconscious manner (a triple-double in the clinching Game 5, an average of 30.3 pts, 9.7 reb and 5.6 ast per game in the post-season) James did a lot to earn the respect, begrudging or not, he has so publicly been seeking for almost a decade.
I am not particularly thrilled that the Miami Heat are NBA champions -- I chalk it up to the last remnants of the 1990s Knicks fan in me -- but what transpired in the finals essentially had to happen. Love him or hate him, respect him or doubt him, he is the best all-around player in the NBA, and has been for a while.
When he came to the league, we all knew there was no package like him -- a guy who had the ability to score from anywhere, pass, rebound and simply take over games. It just took him nine years -- and some help -- to get to the pinnacle.
Sure, he has made mistakes. Clearly egocentric (but show me a pro athlete who isn't -- and if you say hockey players I'll laugh in your naïve face), the questions began when he fired his agent and placed a team led by childhood friend Maverick Carter in charge of his career.
A few years later, it was Carter's idea along with Jim Gray and Ari Emmanuel to orchestrate the breathtakingly disastrous "The Decision."
That's not to absolve him of responsibility -- you can't blame others for making you look like a massive jackass. As a result, most of us outside South Florida rooted for him to fail, rolling our eyes when we'd see the odd guy walking around our neighbourhood in a Heat jersey.
But winning had to happen. The best player in the NBA today had to win a title. Now he has. Cast him in any role you want. He's a champion.
Having said that, here's a quick breakdown about who I'm happy and not-so happy for with the Miami Heat winning the championship:
Not Happy For
As for the Thunder, they'll be back. As Miami celebrated Thursday, Dwyane Wade told Kevin Durant he'd see him the same time next year. It's a pretty good bet.
While Scott Brooks and James Harden lost some stock value in this series, I have a feeling Oklahoma City learned some of the same lessons Miami learned last year against Dallas. That and the old basketball adage that the best player on the floor usually wins, held true.
And let's not blame refs either. There are a lot of people who complain about things like traveling in the NBA (and really, so what?), but please, it's not like the Thunder were robbed.
Is there value in Miami winning for the league? Of course. But if you want to cast roles, there you go. Good guys vs. Bad guys. Heartland vs. South Beach. This could become a Finals rivalry akin to Lakers-Celtics in the '80s.
Expect to see more of it.
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