When it was all over, LeBron James dubbed it gold on ice.
Not long after Team USA had won the Olympics on Sunday, James tweeted a photo showing a pair of gold medals sitting in a cooler along with bottles of champagne. One medal presumably was James latest prize.
Put on ice for James also a conclusion to one of the greatest basketball years anybody has had. Unless somebody really steps up in football this fall, youve got to figure James will be the 2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
With the 107-100 win over Spain in the gold-medal game in London, the Miami Heat forward became just the second player ever to win an Olympic gold, NBA title, the NBA MVP and the Finals MVP in the same year. The only other one to do it was Michael Jordan, who didnt claim Sportsman of the Year in 1992 probably only because he had just won it in 1991.
It has been a great ride for me, James said. I could have never scripted it this way. I've had many dreams about it, winning an NBA championship and then following it up with a gold medal.
Its amazing how much has changed from a year ago, when James was one of the most disliked sports stars in the world. He still was reeling from criticism about his bolting from Cleveland to Miami in 2010 as a free agent and from a lousy showing in the 2011 NBA Finals loss to Dallas.
But James, determined not to let outside influences bother him, went back to work. He won fans back by having a classy attitude and a great season in leading the Heat to an NBA Finals win over Oklahoma City. Then he further won them back with an unselfish performance as Team USAs best player.
James just led the way for the red, white and blue. Boston coach Doc Rivers, who served as an Olympic studio analyst for NBC, said theres not many places now where James isnt liked a lot more.
Im very happy for LeBron, said the coach of Miamis Eastern Conference rival. Its OK to care for LeBron now. Not in Boston, but in other places its OK to cheer for LeBron.
James led Team USA to an 8-0 mark playing the way he loves. He sought first to distribute the ball to his many talented teammates, and he only looked to take over games offensively when he really was needed.
That was the case in the fourth quarter against pesky Spain. With the Americans leading just 97-91 and three minutes left, James soon threw down a dunk and hit a three-pointer to, as James might like to say, put the game on ice.
James finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. For the Olympics, he was quite content to be just Americas third-leading scorer with a 13.3 average while also contributing 5.6 boards and a team-best 5.6 assists over 25.1 minutes per game.
"It was a great year for me as an individual," James said. "But this (Olympic gold), it means more than myself, it means more than my name on my back. It means everything to the name on the front. I'm happy that I was able to contribute to this great team. It's one of the best teams ever."
James celebrated the victory by dousing Team USA coach Mike Kryzewski with a pair of water bottles. The two have become extremely close since James first hooked up with Krzyzewski for the 2006 World Championships, the last major international event the Americans didnt win, having settled for bronze.
He is the best player and he is the best leader and he is as smart as anyone playing the game right know, Krzyzewski said. We have developed a really close bond because I rely on him to be that for me and he has been I love my relationship with him. What a year. NBA champ, MVP, gold medal.
James, who got a bronze medal in a disappointing Games in Athens in 2004 before claiming gold in Beijing in 2008, arrived at an Olympics this summer for the first time while also having an NBA title on his resume. But James, who won the first ring of his nine-year career in June, claimed he didnt think about that in London.
I never thought a second about that after I was in Miami and won a championship, James said. I made a commitment. I wanted to be a part of this, and this is the reason why I came to be a part of this team: To have this bouquet of flowers (handed to players on the victory stand) and a gold medal.
James and New York forward Carmelo Anthony, who also received bronze in 2004 and gold in 2008, joined David Robinson as the only players in Team USA mens basketball history to have won three medals. Robinson took bronze in 1988 before winning gold in 1992 and 1996.
Now, the question begs: Will James be in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 to add to his Olympic record haul?
I have no idea, James said while still celebrating Sundays win. Im going to have fun with my teammates right now and then, I dont know. Im not even thinking about that right now.
It might be awhile before addresses it. In 1 months, James will start training camp in Miami.
James thoughts will turn to wanting to put another NBA title ring on ice.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson