In the infancy of the Miami Heat franchise I prayed that one day the team would be good enough to get to the second round of the NBA playoffs. Harold Miner could earn his nickname of “Baby Jordan” and Glen Rice and Steve Smith would make enough clutch shots that I could watch a Heat game in May. Expectations changed when Pat Riley signed to coach and manage the Heat in 1995, suddenly Heat Nation was disappointed if Miami’s season didn’t last into June. Then when LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat the question wasn’t if the Heat would win a championship, but how many they would win.
With such high expectations joy is not my primary emotion after the Heat’s triumph, rather it is relief. To be honest I felt more joy on July 10, 2010 when the above photograph was taken after LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade signed with the Miami Heat. That was an unabashed celebration of hope, promise, and invincibility. This Miami Heat team would be a dynasty. Now I feel lucky we managed to sneak out with one trophy.
What brought us to this point? Here are thoughts on the men posing in the photograph that have evolved over the course of this two year journey from formation to apex. From left to right…
Pat Riley– The man should run for president in 2012. Anyone who convinced the top three free agents of the past decade to sign with his team for less money could cure our ills. It is obvious he will never come back to coach the Miami Heat, so he might as well take the nation’s second most important job. His motivational skills will put this country back to work and scare the bejesus out of any Al Qaeda splinter cells.
Erik Spoelstra– I have been the Miami Heat coach’s harshest critic over the last three years. But during the NBA Finals he did not make a single mistake. He stayed with the hot hands and did not become a slave to preordained substitution patterns. Spoelstra convinced LeBron James to post up smaller defenders and for the most part persuaded him not to shoot threes. He still lacks the charisma of his predecessor, Pat Riley, but compared to his Oklahoma City counterpart, Scott Brooks, Spo looks like a genius (Thank you for not playing Harden when he was on fire in Game 2, Scotty boy). And so I declare by royal edict that there will be no Spoelstra bashing on www.pablochiste.com for the next year.
LeBron James – Could he actually be better then we thought he was? Right now the only basketball players you could make an argument that were better than LeBron over the last 25 years are Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. But watching nearly every game LeBron played over the last two years I think a sane argument could be made that LeBron is better than either of them. Jordan was obviously a smarter player and better free throw shooter, but also without question LeBron is a better rebounder and passer While Jordan is considered one of the better defenders of all time, he never attempted to guard seven foot centers which LeBron does routinely along with covering the quickest little point guards. It might be blasphemy to suggest anyone is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan, but LeBron James could make sinners of us all.
Dwyane Wade – Oy vey! From 2003-2006 Dwyane Wade was my favorite player. He played every possession like his Mama’s life was on the line. He never took a shot he couldn’t make and was humble about the fact that he could make them all. This postseason was painful to watch Wade. It wasn’t that he was missing shots that he normally made, it was that he was taking shots he couldn’t make and then complaining to the referees about his miss rather than running back on defense while his man was scoring an easy lay-up. I was begging for someone to get in Wade’s face and when Coach Spoelstra finally did, Wade cursed him out.
There have been a litany of excuses from a mysterious injury to Wade having to go through a child custody battle, but a professional guard should be able to dribble the ball past half court without turning the ball over. These mistakes nearly cost the Heat two victories against the Thunder. Fortunately, they didn’t. Heat fans will always be grateful for Wade’s performance in the 2006 Heat championship and his role in recruiting LeBron to Miami, but from Wade we expect more. His aging body might not be able to match his youthful feats, but a return to the dignified, intelligent player he once was will make up for a lessened vertical leap.
Chris Bosh – We might have overestimated his skill set, but we also underestimated his heart. He didn’t score as many points as we would have liked, but in the Finals he rebounded like a son of a gun and dove for every loose ball like Dwyane Wade’s Mama’s life was on the line. After Bosh got injured in the second round of the playoffs and the Heat won five straight without him I was leading the charge that the Heat played better without Bosh, but I was clearly wrong. The Heat won 5 games and lost 4 without Bosh and with him were 11-3 in the 2012 playoffs.
Micky Arison – The owner of the Heat might have suckered the broke ass city of Miami to fund his stadium on the bay, but has continuously done everything in his power to make the Heat the best team in the NBA. I’m looking forward to the parade he organized being as first class as his team. Even if it is at the expense of taxpayers.
Udonis Haslem– Just when we give up on UD he makes some sweet jumpers and shows those hillbilly Indiana Pacers nobody outthugs the Miami Heat.
Mario Chalmers– At times in the playoffs I was convinced he switched brains with Dwyane Wade.
Shane Battier– Three point shooting and defense like Dwyane Wade’s Mama’s life was on the line.
Mike Miller- Because every NBA champion needs a token Caucasian.
Dwyane Wade’s Mama
2012 Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy
The Party In Miami