MIAMI - LeBron James was less than six seconds away from being the runner-up for the third time in his career and from coming under fire yet again for his decision to join Miami.
But Ray Allen's three-point shot with 5.2 seconds left in regulation of Game 6 saved the Heat's season and gave James another opportunity to prove he made the right decision.
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James and the Heat can win their second straight championship Thursday night with a win in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against a Spurs team that could be reeling after Tuesday's crushing loss. James sounds like someone who will take full advantage of that second chance.
"I want to go down as one of the greatest," James said Wednesday. "I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams and we have an opportunity to do that.
"My only goal is to win championships. This is what I came here for. This is what I wanted to be a part of this team for. As far as validation, that side doesn't really matter to me about what validates us coming together. But I want it."
The Heat's unforgettable 103-100 overtime win in Game 6 set up the 18th Game 7 in NBA Finals history. Only three have been won by the road team, the last in 1978, when the Bullets beat the SuperSonics in Seattle.
But that history means little to James. He knows what Tim Duncan and the Spurs are capable of doing. His Cavaliers were swept by San Antonio in the 2007 NBA Finals and his Heat was nearly dethroned two nights ago.
"It's probably going to be one of the biggest games, if not the biggest game of my life," James said.
If the Spurs can forget about their collapse in Game 6 and win their fifth title in the Duncan era, it will be a great story about overcoming adversity and building a championship team organically rather than buying one.
James, a four-time MVP, understands if that happens he will face scrutiny more than any Heat player. But he's used to it, and said it doesn't bother him because he overcame his own adversity -- coming from a tough neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, and being raised by his mother -- and has become the greatest player in the world.
"I'm blessed," James said. "I don't even know how I got here. I wasn't supposed to be in the NBA, if you go by statistics and things of me growing up where I grew up.
"Every time I go into my locker room and see the 'James' on the back of an NBA jersey I'm like 'Wow.' No criticism can deter me from playing this game because of that. I'm not supposed to be here. The fact that I'm doing what I'm doing and doing it for my teammates, that's all that matters."
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who had eight turnovers in Game 6 and was "devastated" afterward, said he was "still down" Wednesday. "I don't know," Ginobili said when asked what gives him confidence that the Spurs can bounce back.
Ginobili was just being honest and was the only Spur to express doubt. Duncan and Tony Parker said the team had a late dinner and discussed other times they suffered tough losses and were able to bounce back.
"It was great to just talk to everybody and make sure everybody doesn't stay sad for too long," Parker said.
"We have had a hell of a year, and we have an opportunity to win a championship [tonight]," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's all that matters."
James has the same outlook
"We have to live in the moment," James said. "And we have to do whatever it takes to bring that trophy or to keep that trophy here in Miami."