And it still wasn't enough for the Miami Heat to snap this dreadful losing streak.
James scored 28 points and added five assists, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Heat 97-90 Monday night -- his first win in nine career trips to Miami and enough to send the 2006 NBA champions to their 14th straight loss, the second-worst slide in franchise history.
"D-Wade played incredibly well," James said, "but we made more plays."
Wade scored 42 points for the Heat, who are 8-32 overall -- 2½ games better than Minnesota in the battle for the league's worst record. The Heat started 0-17 in their expansion 1988-89 season, and with defending NBA champion San Antonio coming in Thursday, it's not getting easy anytime soon.
"I feel great empathy for our guys," Heat coach Pat Riley said.
Wade scored Miami's final 18 points and had 32 in the second half, both franchise records.
The rest of the Heat in the second half?
They shot 3-for-21, managing six points.
"Right now, we absolutely need him," Riley said. "He's doing everything he can do."
Wade hit a 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds left to get the Heat within 92-88, before James essentially sealed it with two free throws 4.8 seconds later.
Wade's 3 was Miami's only make in 12 attempts from beyond the arc, but marked the team's 129th straight game with at least one connection from long range.
That streak doesn't matter to the Heat.
The 14-in-a-row is the one they can't snap, no matter what they try.
"We're going to win one of them," Wade said. "Every game, there's that hope."
O'Neal will undergo an MRI on Tuesday to determine if the severity of the lingering hip injury has changed. He did not speak with reporters after the game.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 8-1 in January.
"We're just playing great basketball," James said.
Drew Gooden scored 11 points while Sasha Pavlovic and Damon Jones each scored 10 for Cleveland, which tied the game on Pavlovic's 3-pointer on the first possession of the second half and never trailed again.
"They're a way better team than the record displays," Gooden said. "They have great players and they just have to find a way to get it done."
Things didn't start well for Miami, which trailed 12-5 when O'Neal went into the Heat locker room, followed by trainer Ron Culp, with 8:33 left in the opening period. Culp re-taped O'Neal's ailing left hip, which kept him out of eight straight games from Dec. 28 through Jan. 11.
Though limping, O'Neal was effective at times.
He went 4-for-6 for 10 points in the half, his backup Mark Blount went 3-for-5 for another eight points -- plus took a charging foul against James with 0.3 seconds left before intermission -- and the Heat went into the break leading 52-49.
Cleveland seemed poised to pull away at times in the third, opening the quarter with a quick 7-0 run to erase Miami's lead, and going up by seven points on two occasions later in the period.
"The best third quarter we had all season," James said.
But Wade -- who had seven assists in the half, none in the third period -- scored Miami's last eight points of the quarter, including a jumper with 36.7 seconds left to get his team within 72-70 entering the fourth. He went 6-for-10 from the floor in the third, while his teammates combined to shoot 2-for-11.
He didn't get much help in the fourth either, and the futility lived on.
"To get a win against this team, it's a good win for us," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
Cleveland had lost nine straight overall in Miami. ... Both teams took part in a pregame ceremony to mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Heat center Alonzo Mourning read excerpts of the civil rights leader's famed "I have a dream" speech. ... Although the Cleveland media guide lists Jones as a Patriots fan, the Cavs' guard says he really is a Dallas Cowboys fan -- but is rooting for New England in the Super Bowl anyway. "I want to see history," Jones said. ... Wade, who ranks seventh in the NBA in free-throw attempts, didn't get to the line until 45 seconds remained in the first half. ... James had the ball in his hands against Ricky Davis to end each of the first three quarters, going scoreless every time.