ORLANDO, Fla. - The first thing Jeanie Buss felt when Game 6 of the NBA Finals neared its close was overwhelmed. This title-clinching moment was one she'd been waiting for - one she wasn't sure she'd ever have. She felt excited for the players who'd accomplished it and the fans who'd waited with her.
Then it occurred to her that she had a job to do.
"I'm not a good public speaker, so I was worried I was gonna have a horrible case of stage fright and not find the words," Buss said a day later. "Watching them celebrate together, that team is as close as any team I've ever seen."
She'd prepared a few thoughts just in case, and as she made her way onto the court, the words came back to her. Then LeBron James found her with some words of his own as he embraced her tightly.
He told her he did what he came to do. This is what we wanted to accomplish, and we did it, she recalled him saying, paraphrasing his thoughts. She smiled and nodded as he spoke, closing her eyes for some of it.
"I think the hug for that long a time was to really let it soak in," Buss said. "He's won several championships now, and he knows that those moments are to be cherished and to be recognized."
It's something she knows as well.
On Sunday evening, Buss became the first female controlling owner to win an NBA championship.
"Hopefully not the last," she said.
It closed a chapter in the franchise's history that involved hard choices and stumbles, a chapter during which the team her father had turned into the NBA's glamour franchise became a punchline. Her ability to lead was questioned, her friendships were scrutinized, and she tightened her circle to a smaller group of people she felt she could trust.