USA's Lebron James dances after receiving his medal for the win over Spain to claim the gold medal for Men's Basketball during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing on August 24, 2008. The US won 118 to 107. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg) | License Photo
The 2011-12 NBA season started late but finished with the long-anticipated crowning of LeBron James and the Miami Heat as NBA champions.
The lack of a collective bargaining agreement, in which the owners wanted a bigger share of the revenues and a restructured salary cap system, led to the owners locking out players as of July 1, 2011.
The sides were able to come to an agreement in December -- in time to open the season with the popular series of Christmas Day games -- but about 20 percent of the regular-season games were canceled.
The NBA was left with a crowded 66-game schedule in which some teams had to play three consecutive nights.
But by the end of the season, 14 of the 16 teams that made the playoffs in 2011 were back in the bracket for 2012. The only new faces were the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
The Eastern Conference had the same eight teams with Chicago and Miami winding up with the best records. But the Bulls, who had the top mark (50-16) in the NBA, were stunned in the first round by Philadelphia. Miami took out the New York Knicks in five games, third-seeded Indiana in six and No. 4-seeded Boston in seven in the Eastern Conference final for a second consecutive trip to the NBA finals.
During the playoff series against Indiana, it was announced that James was voted the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a third time in four seasons.
San Antonio, also 50-16 on the year after closing with a 10-game winning streak, didn't lose a playoff game in getting to the Western Conference finals. Oklahoma City, which eliminated Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers -- the last two NBA champions, lost one game en route to the series with the Spurs.
San Antonio ran its streak to 20 games by taking the first two from the Thunder but Oklahoma City won the next four behind Kevin Durant and advanced to the finals.
Oklahoma City opened the finals with a 105-94 win over the Heat only to have Miami sweep the next four. James scored 26 points, had 11 rebounds and 13 assists in a 121-106 win that gave the Heat their second title.
It was something of a redemption for James. He'd left Cleveland in a manner that irked Cavaliers fans and didn't win over many people outside of Cleveland -- unless they were Miami Heat fans. Until the final win over the Thunder, however, he'd been the best player to never win an NBA championship.
That taken care of, James turned to the international scene, teaming with Durant on a dominant U.S. men's Olympic team, he became a gold medal winner. Sports Illustrated named him its Sportsman of the Year -- citing his charitable work along with his playing abilities -- to finish a superlative year.
James was second to Durant (28 points a game) in scoring. Dwight Howard from Orlando led the NBA in rebounding with 14.5 a game and Boston's Rajon Rondo led the league with 11.7 assists a game.
Tyson Chandler of the Knicks was selected the Defensive Player of the Year and Cleveland's Kyrie Irving was the Rookie of the Year. San Antonio's iconoclastic Gregg Popovich was chosen Coach of the Year while Larry Bird, with the Indiana Pacers, the Executive of the Year.
Dallas guard Jason Kidd was selected for the Sportsmanship Award and the Lakers' Pau Gasol won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
The All-NBA First Team included James, Durant, Howard, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
During the season, Popovich became the 14th coach to win 800 games in the NBA and Bryant became the youngest player to reach 28,000 -- and later 29,000 -- points in a career. (He passed 30,000 early in the 2012-13 season.) Between those two milestones he passed Shaquille O'Neal for fifth on the all-time NBA points list.
Along those lines, James in February was the youngest to reach 18,000 points.
The 2012-13 NBA season began as scheduled but a fast start by the New York Knicks and the excitement of new arena for the Nets -- nee New Jersey, now Brooklyn -- took a back seat to early season disappointments.
The Los Angeles Lakers fired Coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start and turned to Mike D'Antoni by mid December the team was hovering about .500. And the Washington Wizards lost their first 11 games although they improved to 2-13 with a win over the Heat.
In the WNBA, the Indiana Fever defeated the Minnesota Lynx 3-1 in the best-of-five finals. Tamika Catchings of Indiana was voted the Finals MVP Award. The regular-season Most Valuable Player was Tina Charles, who helped Connecticut (25-9) to a conference-best record. Minnesota (27-7) had the best overall record.