This was never about the wait.
Within 11 months of coming together LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were in the NBA Finals.
No, this was always about the weight.
Because no team these past three seasons, perhaps ever, has played amid the burden of such a weight of expectations. The Miami Heat had to be the best, or else the feeling would be the worst. No middle ground.
Thursday was the release valve, a moment that will forever change the dynamic of these three and this franchise.
LeBron James is a multiple champion, his rings now a matching pair, Thursday arguably his crowning NBA achievement.
No. 6 was resplendent. Simply transcendent -- 37 points, 12 rebounds five 3-pointers, 8 of 8 from the foul line.
This 95-88 victory over the San Antonio Spurs was the coronation, the affirmation, the validation. No, not one . . . at least two . . . and the possibilities of as many more as Micky Arison's tax budget allows.
"This team is amazing," he exhaled after confetti snowed from the rafters, champagne flowed in the locker room. "And the vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true. Through adversity, through everything we've been through, we've been able to persevere and to win back¿to¿back championships. It's an unbelievable feeling."
It wasn't as easy as advertised, but never could be as easy as promoted on that smoke-enveloped stage the first week of July 2010.
No, this playoff run was as treacherous as the minefield that was Thursday's Game 7. There was the series-opening loss to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 ties against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, the 0-1, 1-2, 2-3 deficits against the Spurs, who had never trailed in their five Finals appearances until Thursday's final buzzer.
"Last year when I was sitting up here, with my first championship, I said it was the toughest thing I had ever done," said James, named Most Valuable Player of the Finals for the second consecutive year. "This year, I'll tell last year he's absolutely wrong. This was the toughest championship right here, between the two."
Along the way these past two months, so much had to be overcome. There were Wade's knees, Bosh's ankle, LeBron's wayward shooting, which again was shaky at Thursday's start but pure enough to fuel the Heat with his 3-pointers.
Over this playoff run there was good Mario and not-so-good Wario, both sides of the Chalmers thrill ride again on display Thursday, ultimately the good outdoing the evil.
There was Shane Battier then Mike Miller, Mike Miller then Shane Battier, someone desperately needed to provide the jolt of 3-pointers and energy, with Battier coming through Thursday as if he was Miller in last season's Game 5 title-clinching victory against Oklahoma City, Battier 6 of 8 from distance Thursday.
There was Udonis Haslem as a starter and Chris Andersen the contributor at the start of this series. Then Haslem and Andersen as benchwarmers. And then Birdman and Haslem back again Thursday.
There was Norris Cole seizing control against Nate Robinson in the second round, and then Norris Cole making his greatest leap in the Finals from the bench, in full warmups, when Ray Allen had the audacity to send Game 6 against the Spurs into overtime with the 3-pointer he was signed to deliver.
"They were incredible challenges to us that we had to overcome," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's never easy. "As tough as last year was, it seemed like this year was even tougher."
There also was Julio from Miami, frequent sports-talk caller, emailing Thursday morning, "I can't take this anymore. I want it to just be over already. This has not been a fun ride."
And then came the jubilation, when, for the final time this season, the clock showed zeros, yellow rope this time ringing the court not to strangle life from the Heat season, as would have been the case in Game 6, but to allow for one more moment to remain tied as a group.
Earlier in this series, when Thursday's outcome was an abstract, when he still was struggling, before the double-doubles arrived, before Spoelstra determined that Bosh not only had to stand tallest but also as the lone big man in the Heat's rotation, Bosh was asked privately if it all had become too much.
As is his wont, he paused to dissect the question. Because it has been difficult, even when the victories at one point came in a tidy 27-pack. For two seasons, ever since that failure in the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, everything seemed a bit more difficult.
As the league's definitive target, it had grown all about stopping the Heat, stopping LeBron, Wade and Bosh. The Pacers with their size. The Bulls with their bulk. The Knicks with their shooting. Teams were looking past their next game, instead stealing time to steel resolve against Pat Riley's colossus.
"No," Bosh said during that quiet instant, with the majority of the media occupying themselves instead during that moment with LeBron and Wade, "this is what we signed up for. This is what we wanted."
Two years ago, the weight of the moment crushed Bosh, as he fell to his knees in the locker-room hallway at AmericanAirlines Arena in the wake of that season-ending Game 6 Finals loss to the Mavericks.
Then came last season, the jubilation of cutting through the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the NBA Finals, Bosh taking no chances in soaking up the moment, pouring champagne over himself.
And then came Thursday, a moment about more than recycling last season's joy, with Bosh at least making up for total lack of offense with his defense.
"It gets harder," he said outside the locker room when it was over, "but it feels better."
He stopped, paused, laughed.
"Yeah," he smiled, "that was my best scoreless game ever."
For months, Spoelstra told us about the distinct challenge of trying to repeat, a bid that last time ended after the 2006 championship with the careen to 15-67 in 2007-08.
Defending the throne was every bit as challenging as advertised.
As Thursday turned into Friday, there was a lightness in the sea-salt air around AmericanAirlines Arena. Finally.
The weight has been lifted.
Now the wait begins. For three in a row.
See you in October.firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat