I hesitated to write about the Miami Heat’s winning streak. Like all sports fans I am a narcissist who thinks my behavior has a connection to the outcome of the games. This is a ridiculous thought, but if the Heat’s 26 game win streak ends tonight in Orlando I will blame myself for writing this post (and probably Chris Bosh, but more on that later).
When the Heat originally signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh this record setting domination is exactly what I expected. To be fair after a disappointing 9-8 start that first year the Heat did come only a two point loss to the eventual world champion Dallas Mavericks from winning 22 straight games. Since that streak came two trips to the Finals and a championship in 2012, but not another winning streak that extended to even ten games. The Heat seemed too disinterested, undisciplined and poorly coached to have the sustained excellence that their roster should have provided.
Until this streak.
26 games. Seven short of the record held by the 1971-’72 Lakers. This streak by the Heat is already not only the second longest winning streak in NBA history, but also longer than any winning streak in NFL, MLB, or NHL history. LeBron James has won more games in a row than Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, Babe Ruth, or Wayne Gretzky. Erik Spoelstra has coached more consecutive wins than Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Bill Belichick, and even (gulp) Pat Riley.
I did not consider myself a greedy sports fan. When I first became obsessed with the Heat in 1991, I watched every televised contest and we won a grand total of 24 games. At the time I would pray to God to please let my Miami Heat make the playoffs one day. Not win a championship, not even win a playoff game, just make the playoffs. Last week in a battle royale against our arch nemesis the Boston Celtics I found myself praying again. Don’t let this streak end to the Celtics. Let us win this game and we can lose the next game. The very next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers the Gods came to collect with the Heat down 27 points in the second half, I found myself praying again and the Heat found a way to come back and win and extend the streak.
So this Miami Heat team made me not only narcissistic, but also greedy. I want my games to not only end in victory, but I want each game to be a historic victory. For without the streak the remainder of the season will be meaningless. With a top seeding already assured we will have to wait for the postseason for the urgency that each game in this streak provides.
What has been responsible for this streak?
Extraordinary health. Wade missed yesterday’s game against the league’s worst team the Charlotte Bobcats, but other than that, no key player has missed any time during the streak.
The maturation of the team. Smart free agent acquisitions like Ray Allen and Shane Battier never find themselves in the wrong position on the floor and always know when to pass and when to shoot. Last year’s championship experience for LeBron James has led to him no longer being fearful in the game’s deciding moments. During the streak LeBron hit his first two game winners since joining the Miami Heat. Of course I have to compliment coach Erik Spoelstra. During the streak (like in last year’s finals) he learned how to get out of the way. Ride a player when they’re hot and get them out when they are cold.
But probably the greatest reason for the streak is the addition of Chris “Birdman” Andersen. This tattooed, mohawked freakshow was the missing piece. I did not want to root for a man who was suspended for a year for crystal meth use, who was accused of child sex crimes, who tattooed one side of his neck with the word “Bird” and did not tattoo the other side with “Larry” (he instead chose the word “Free”). But his energy, his rebounding, his ability to imitate a Caucasian Dennis Rodman with an offensive game was the difference in several of these wins and forced me to lose any integrity as a sports fan. Plus I am convinced his drugs are responsible for the below video.