MIAMI – It took a year, but the Heat finally got the chance to join the NBA championship party in Miami.
Twelve months ago it was the Dallas Mavericks celebrating into the early hours at Club LIV after beating the Heat in Game 6 to famously deny LeBron James a first championship ring at the end of his first season in South Beach.
But around 5:00am Friday, James reclaimed the stage at the Fontainebleau Hotel club after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the 2012 finals.
Photos shared online by fellow clubgoers showed several Heat players, who were still wearing their "Champions" baseball caps, milking the moment.
Dwyane Wade was spotted with a victory cigar, while James loomed large over a crowd wearing a black t-shirt with his own face emblazoned across it.
Hours earlier he had sent out a video message to his fans on his personal website, apologizing for failing to communicate with them during the finals series, but insisting, "Without you guys it wouldn't have been possible."
James, who has endured two years of torrid abuse following his acrimonious departure from Cleveland, shared his capture of the championship and MVP finals trophies with those who stood by him, before declaring, "I am back."