James, who fired up much of the debate by questioning White's flawless 100 from a World Cup meet last month before bemoaning some of the scores he received, eased into qualification position with an 89-point first run.
It was an emotional comeback for White after Hirano had nailed a ridiculous series of stunning flips and twists to score a 95.25 on his second run, one point better than White had posted earlier.
Last month double Olympic halfpipe champion White made headlines when he earned a ideal 100 score at the US Grand Prix to qualify for a fourth Games in PyeongChang.
Back at the Olympics, White accomplished his goal of gaining a third gold medal in what may be his last games.
With his performance in Pyeongchang, it was clear White was looking to rebound from his fourth-place finish in Sochi from 2014.
White's three gold medals put him second in Winter Olympic success by a US male athlete to long track speedskater Eric Heiden, who has five Olympic gold medals.
Podladtchikov was unable to compete in PyeongChang due to a recent injury, but there were two other riders considered to be White's biggest challengers at these Olympics: Japan's Ayumu Hirano and Australia's Scotty James.
In another milestone, White's win was the 100th gold won by USA athletes in the Winter Games.
The throwdown set the stage for an Olympic contest that will be talked about for decades as the moment when halfpipe snowboarding reached a new realm of virtuosity.
White fell on his second run.
Olympic gold medalist Shaun White deflected questions by ABC News about a sexual misconduct lawsuit after his winning performance today in South Korea, calling the allegations against him "gossip" and trying to move on from follow-up questions during a news conference. In the Team USA history book, his three gold medals put him second to short track speedskater Bonnie Blair and long track speedskater Eric Heiden, who holds the record with five apiece. I actually did the same trick that injured me here in the halfpipe today, so there were a lot of obstacles to overcome.
But the last four years have been much more than just a journey back to the Olympics for White. I was hoping that first run would skate through and I could do a victory lap.
White, sometimes nicknamed the "Flying Tomato" because of his red hair, trailed 19-year-old Japanese Ayumu Hirano with one run left at Phoenix Snow Park Wednesday.
"I was stoked to put that (first) run down", White said.
For now White will reflect on his status as one of the greatest Olympians of all time and spend time with friends and family, starting with Miller's 18th birthday party on Wednesday night.
"It was a deja-vu situation, standing there needing to land a run to win the Olympics and I just couldn't do it (in Sochi)". The menu's description of the burger makes that very clear, calling it, "The best special thing, This is only for Shaun White, My wish for your gold medal". The gold was also the 100th overall gold for the United States in the Winter Games.