I can tell you as a tried and true Dallas Mavericks fan, the worst experience I’ve ever had watching professional sports was the Miami Heat routing the Mavs in games 3-6 to win the NBA Title.
Dwayne Wade was terrific in that series, but the officials decided some time in game three to start calling fouls against anyone inside Wade’s area code and it helped Miami win their first-ever NBA Championship. It was awful. I couldn’t shake it all summer. But to make a long story short, I am not a fan of him, his flopping, his "injuries,"or his team.
I didn’t really have much of an opinion of LeBron James before The Decision. The Decision, of course, was when the superstar decided to “take his talents to South Beach” in a very public way followed by the pep rally. I always equated James with Alex Rodriguez: a supremely talented athlete at the top of his game that was completely disconnected from the fans. Neither guy seemed to know how they were perceived and it every time they tried to do something, it came off wrong. Like The Decision and the pep rally. I thought Wade and Miami didn’t really earn their title in 2006 (they did, but I still don’t like it) and James was the NBA’s ARod — a sideshow that could never close the deal.
As 2011’s NBA Finals started, it was my beloved Mavs and “…the best trio to ever play the game of basketball…” (Chris Bosh, James and Wade) squaring off. The Heat openly talked in the summer of 2010 about winning titles: "Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven," and the Dallas series was a foregone conclusion. Or not.
Dallas gutted out wins while Miami taunted and whined and in their post-game interview after Dallas won the NBA Title LeBron proved how disconnected from the fans he was. It was glorious on so many levels: Dallas won, the mighty Heat lost and the arrogant, showboat-y superstars in Miami melted down.
The 2012 season saw Miami return to the post-season and acting much the same way. A 78-75 loss to Indiana in round two at home produced this gem from Mr. Wade. So the pep-rally guy doesn’t like premature celebrations? Rich. The No.2 seed Heat were feeling the heat of their own promotion and hype and many (“many” being me) assumed they would crumble under the pressure once again. The Eastern Conference Finals with the Celtics, the tough-talking and tough-acting 4-seed, went to game 7, where LeBron James was historically terrible. Early it looked like the same thing was going to happen…
But it didn’t. The 7-point halftime deficit was erased and Miami won going away. They were now two-time Eastern Conference Champs and had an NBA Finals date with Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City.
The Heat seemed different after winning that Celtics series. In 2011 they would have lost to Boston, but in 2012 they grew up and got by. They made quick work of OKC in the Finals, winning in five. LeBron had his ring and the Miami Heat were World Champions. Had they turned the corner, or was it magical run that all lined up perfectly like it did for Dallas?
They turned the corner. This year Miami won 27 straight regular season games, six shy of the NBA record, this regular season. They rolled into the post-season with a 66-16 record, the best regular season record in the NBA in six years. LeBron James won his fourth NBA MVP Award (at 28 he's the youngest player in league history to have that many) and they swept Milwaukee in the opening round, and absolutely housed the depleted Chicago Bulls, 4-1. In that Bulls series Chicago tried to get into LeBron's head but he, and his team, stayed cool.
They stomped the Indiana Pacers in game 3 Sunday night and are up two games to one. And I don't think anyone not in the Pacers' locker room (and maybe even a few of them) thinks they can win the series vs. Miami. Count me as one that agrees. If they now just hold serve at home they are on their way to their third straight NBA Finals, making them the first Eastern Conference team to do that since Jordan and the Bulls (1996-98) and they will be heavily favored to win their second straight title.
I am not a fan of the Heat, but as Wes Mantooth (son of Dorothy Mantooth) says of Ron Burgundy, “Deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you! But [expletive] do I respect you!”
You don't have to like them — I don't — but you must respect the fact they are very much on pace to be a dynasty. Of course anything could happen, and I hope it does. But the Heat look every bit like the team everyone expected them to be three years ago. And they aren't going anywhere, either.
See you next week.
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