MIAMI - LeBron James walked through the tunnel leading from the Miami Heat locker room Monday, stepped onto the court, and gave a yell. He looked down at the NBA Finals logo newly affixed on the floor, smiled, and nodded.
With that, it became real.
His championship chance - the biggest reason he came to Miami - has finally arrived.
Swept out of his only other Finals appearance four years ago, James will get his long-awaited second opportunity starting Tuesday night when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA's title series. After a year like no other in his life, starting with the much-criticized Decision; his jerseys being torched in Cleveland; and never-ending, intense scrutiny of his every move, the last challenge will likely prove to be the toughest of them all.
"I'm honored to be here once again," said James, who led the Cavaliers to the 2007 Finals and lost in four games to San Antonio. "Now with this franchise, it's an honor. As players, we worked hard. I worked hard individually to get to this point. And I had a lot of visions of being in this moment, and now it's hit me, being on that floor, seeing the championship logos and everything, the Finals logos. I'm very excited."
After all the assists, steals, three-pointers, and triple-doubles, Jason Kidd has an easier path to his next entry in the NBA record book.
All he has to do is show up.
Kidd will become the oldest guard to start a game in an NBA Finals when the Mavericks face the Heat on Tuesday night.
While Dirk Nowitzki calls him a "fossil," and Shawn Marion described him as being "almost 50," Kidd is a few months past 38. That's two years older than Ron Harper was when he started for the Lakers in 2000.
Of course, Kidd would prefer the title of oldest starting guard to win a championship. That also was set by Harper in 2000.
Winning it all is among the few things Kidd hasn't done in his 17-year career. He came close in 2002 and '03, reaching the Finals with the New Jersey Nets, but they were swept by the Lakers then fell to the Spurs.
"I thought we were going to go on a roll in Jersey and make it three or four in a row," Kidd said. "But, now we're here. And hopefully we can find a way to win a championship."