But playing for titles is more expected than celebrated now in Miami, and a 66-win season that included a 27-game winning streak — and perhaps the whole Big Three era — goes down as a failure if the Heat fall Thursday. Yet James said he doesn't need the victory to validate his decision to take his talents to South Beach.
"I mean, I need it because I want it and I only came here — my only goal is to win championships," he said. "I said it, this is what I came here for. This is what I wanted to be a part of this team for."
James, Wade and Bosh are going for No. 2, while San Antonio is getting a second shot at what would be a fourth title together for Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. All their years together have given the Spurs' trio the belief they can bounce back from Tuesday's collapse.
The team went to dinner after the game, Duncan figuring that was better than guys sitting alone with their thoughts in their rooms. Parker and Boris Diaw discussed a similar situation with the French national team in the 2005 European championships, when they blew a late lead against Greece in the semifinals but then came back to beat Spain for the bronze medal.
"We just have to be positive and forget Game 6," Parker said. "It was a great opportunity, but that's life. It's basketball and everybody will be ready."
So will James, who was planning a relaxing night with family and friends Wednesday. He has the most at stake in the game, and when it's over he'll be either be a two-time NBA Finals MVP or a two-time loser in a Heat uniform.
"I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams. And we have an opportunity to do that," James said. "Hasn't been many teams to win back-to-back championships. It's so hard. It's the hardest thing. I said last year it was the hardest thing I've ever done, winning my first. Last year don't even come close to what we've gone through in this postseason and in these finals.
"So I'll be there (Thursday) night. I'm going to give it my all."
The Spurs have never lost in the finals, but they've never faced a situation quite like this. They won a Game 7 for the 2005 championship, but that victory over Detroit was at home. The last five finals that went the distance all went to the home team.
"I don't really care what it's been like for anybody else at any time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "All I know is we have had a hell of a year and we have an opportunity to win a championship. That's all that matters."
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