Updated: January 1, 2013, 1:01 AM ET

1. Year Without Peer: LeBron Wraps Up 2012

By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The year started with LeBron James popping the question. By the time it ended Monday night, he had firmly answered many of his biggest critics.

So what does James do for an encore?

"I'm going to do a little skiing," James joked Monday night about preparing for yet another gold medal.

Making a run at the 2014 Winter Olympics while also duplicating his success from the most rewarding calendar year of his career might be the only way James surpasses all he accomplished in 2012.

Otherwise, nothing else he does the rest of his career will come close to matching the past 12 months. Between his midnight marriage proposal on New Year's Day 2012 to longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson and putting the finishing touches on Monday's overtime win against the Orlando Magic, James has been on a relentlessly magical ride.

LeBron James
Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/GettyLeBron made sure the Heat left 2012 as winners.

In a one-year span, James' résumé additions included his third regular-season MVP, his first Finals MVP, his first NBA championship, a second Olympic gold medal and the honor of being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

"I can't top 2012," James said. "I don't have the Olympics, for one. I'd need the Olympics to be every year. All I can do is go out there and play the game I love each and every night, put myself in position to succeed, and be who I am as well off the floor."

Even as the final hours of 2012 ticked away after the Heat's 112-110 win at the Amway Center, James said he still hadn't had a chance to truly reflect on how big of a year it's been. The months seemed to transition like one fast break after another for James, who celebrated his 28th birthday Sunday and went back to work Monday to rescue the Heat.

Much like in the way of reflection, there's been little time for rest for James, who delivered 36 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and nearly every big play the Heat needed over his 48 minutes to hold off the short-handed but feisty Magic. In the process, Miami rebounded from consecutive double-digit losses in Detroit and Milwaukee and avoided its first regular-season, three-game losing streak since last January.

Struggling to beat a 12-19 Orlando team that's rebuilding in the post-Dwight Howard era and was missing three of its best players doesn't qualify as a significant step forward for Miami. But it did allow the Heat to close out the year on a winning note, even if several of their warts on both ends of the court continue to be exposed in stunning fashion.

But James also continues to be Miami's ultimate equalizer.

His 36 points, including 10 of the Heat's 13 scored in overtime, allowed Miami to withstand a Magic franchise-record 29 rebounds from center Nikola Vucevic as Orlando simply pounded the worst rebounding team in the league.

James' 15-of-16 clip from the free throw line helped to cover for teammate Dwyane Wade, who missed seven of 10 foul shots, including three critical ones down the stretch.

When James needed to get others going early, he responded by setting up Ray Allen and Chris Bosh for baskets as they combined for 39 points on 16-of-24 shooting from the field. All of this was done as James never got a rest in the second half and overtime period, pushing through aches during some stretches in the game and sheer exhaustion.

Two nights earlier in Milwaukee, James made a rare move by asking out of a game because he was physically spent. But he never raised his hand for a break on Monday. Instead, he kept asking for the ball and making plays.

It was that way all game.

It's been that way all year.

"I don't know if this league has had a player like that in a long time, who is able to flip the switch -- going from facilitating to scoring, then rebounding and defending," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Whatever the team needs, he instinctively reads it and then does it. He makes it look a whole lot easier than it is. But we needed every part of that. When we needed guys to get going, he got Ray going. He got Dwyane some easy buckets. But then, he stepped up big when he needed to score in the second half."

It was fitting that James was eating a big bowl of home-cooked gumbo, a postgame team meal courtesy of Allen's mother, in his locker after Monday's game.

He had a bit of everything going yet again.

"That's why he's great, why he's who he is," Allen said of James. "We rely on him to do a lot. But with that there's a lot of responsibility, and he accepts it."

The only thing James failed to do in 2012 was step back and contemplate all that's happened, all he's done.

"Haven't had time," James said. "I hear it and have been fortunate to have some very key moments in my life. I haven't really had time to sit back and really look at everything. But it has been a good year. I know that and I will never take this year for granted."

But James' 2013 calendar is already filling up quickly.

He's got another set of rings on his agenda.

One in June if the Heat repeat as champions.

The other in the early fall, likely September, when he closes the deal with his fiancée on their wedding day.

"You know I haven't forgotten about that," James revealed to ESPN.com about his preliminary wedding plans. "I've still got a lot more to take care of in 2013, man."

Dimes past: Dec. 13 | 14-15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21-22 | 23 | 25 | 26 | 28-29 | 30

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