Let me start out by saying that even if Miami comes back in this series, and who knows, maybe even wins the NBA Championship, everything I say here remains true. If that hypothetical scenario does occur I’ll probably get caught up in the moment and profess my love for this Heat team. Don’t believe a word I say. I’m typing all of this with a completely level head. Nothing has changed just because Chris Bosh got hurt, or because Indiana hammered Miami two nights ago. This has been inside of me for a long time; it’s just coming to fruition now.
I don’t like the Miami Heat. Don’t mistake that for me disliking LeBron James. I love LeBron James, maybe too much. Actually, definitely too much. I got so wrapped up in him leaving Cleveland to go to Miami that I didn’t even consider how poorly he handled the situation. I know that he is entitled to take his talents anywhere he wanted. The NBA is a business and LeBron made a business decision. Maybe not a very good one, but it was a business decision nonetheless and that’s perfectly acceptable. It wasn’t business to the Cavaliers fans though. They were hurt. They were emotionally invested in LeBron. I have a hard time looking at it other than a basketball decision. Let’s just say in a “hypothetical” situation where I could leave my hometown, a place where I had my own history, friends and following of people who cared about me, I wouldn’t abandon them like LeBron did just because I thought I had an opportunity to play for a better basketball team. Nope, that isn’t me. But I still followed LeBron to Miami because for seven years (well, nine if you count two of his years at St. Vincent-St. Mary), I was the biggest LeBron James fan that didn’t live in Cleveland. That hasn’t changed. I’d bet money on that statement. Truth be told, I was probably the biggest Cleveland Cavaliers fan that didn’t live in Cleveland. I doubt there were many other people with LeBron’s jersey/the Cavaliers logo painted on their bedroom wall, just to match the Cavaliers blanket and the pillows that were on their bed. I have no problem admitting that I took some Cavaliers losses pretty hard. Just like any other really passionate sports fans tears were shed, curse words were screamed, and remote controls were thrown against closets (Game 1 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals really pissed me off). Since LeBron’s went to Miami, I haven’t had one emotional or violent outburst because of a loss. I guess it speaks volumes that I don’t have a favorite team anymore.
My passion as a LeBron fan hasn’t changed. I will still put my LeBron fan credentials up against anyone else’s. But what I’ve realized through this Miami Heat process is that I was actually a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, not just a LeBron fan. I look at this Heat roster and realize there are very few individuals on the team I like, and with the Cavaliers roster I had legitimate connections with players. Only Shane Battier and Norris Cole I liked before I was a “Heat fan” and Cole only because I liked him in college. Since becoming a “Heat fan” I’ve only developed a slight liking for Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers. Note: I put Heat fan in quotations because I’m not really a Heat fan even though I’d probably be classified as one. I was a Cavaliers fan though, and the difference between Heat fans and Cavaliers fans is a huge difference. Heat fans stumble into American Airlines Arena late and get more excited about yelling “Dos Minutos” than anything else. 20,562 Cavaliers fans packed Quicken Loans Arena every night and gave the Cavaliers the best home court advantage I have witnessed in my time as an NBA fan. A 39-2 home record in 2008-09 is evidence of that. I have memories with those Cavaliers teams and players. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson’s barrage of three pointers in Game 6 of the 2007 Conference Finals against Detroit is still one of my happiest sports moments. Anderson Varejao was the prototypical pesky/annoying player that you’d hate on every other team, but you absolutely love when he is on yours. Mo Williams may not have been the best fit as a 2ndoption to LeBron, but the memories of every 3 pointer he hit followed by an overjoyed reaction from the crowd and the playing of the Godfather theme music still bring a smile to my face. Zydrunas Ilgauskas remains one of my favorite players ever. His loyalty to teammates and willingness to stick his nose in every confrontation was endearing. Even as he went from slow to tortoise-like speed, he was still a great guy to have on the team. JJ Hickson was the young forward who showed a lot of promise, and served as LeBron’s main alley-oop passing threat in the last couple of years in Cleveland. Delonte West, Wally Szcerbiak, Donyell Marshall, Joe Smith, Jamario Moon, Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, Drew Gooden… I have a spot in my heart for all of those guys. It was an underwhelming supporting cast, but they were perfect in their own unique way. It was a group of misfits and nobodies that were suddenly racking up regular season wins like nobody’s business thanks to their unbelievable team chemistry and the best player in the NBA, LeBron James. One of my biggest high school basketball regrets, specifically for my junior year (my all-time favorite sports season), was not doing the Cavaliers “Family Photo” routine after the starting line-up introductions. It displayed a closeness and togetherness of the team that is incredibly rare. They legitimately enjoyed not just playing together, but being around each other. You could see through the number of pre-game handshakes and the hijinks on the bench that they were a group of friends playing basketball together. The supporting cast appreciated LeBron for how magnificent he was and LeBron appreciated their effort, even though it wasn’t exactly the greatest collection of talent. At least for a period of time he appreciated them.
Today I’m stuck watching a disjointed collection of individuals who rarely play or act like a team. And it’s not like Miami is winning any more than those Cavaliers team were. In less than two years they have collectively underachieved just as much, if not more than the Cavaliers did. This team, the South Beach Super Team, was supposed to rip through the league like a hurricane destroying South Beach. Immediately after “The Decision” there was talk of Miami breaking the all-time season wins record, and winning not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven titles. None of that will happen, and that’s a sobering statement for me to make. I believed in all of the hype. I believed that there was no way a team with LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could not win a championship. It seemed unthinkable that a team so loaded with talent, even if the talent was top heavy, could lose 4 out of 7 times to one team. I abandoned my biggest belief about basketball when I talked myself into the Heat… teamwork will almost always defeat talent. I firmly believe that to be true, as long as the talent isn’t overwhelmingly different, as is the case in the NBA playoffs for the most part. Outside of LeBron, Wade and Bosh, the Heat’s talent isn’t as good as most teams in the NBA. And the teamwork and team chemistry of the Miami Heat ranks near the bottom of the league in the unofficial power rankings. I loved hearing about how LeBron and Wade were “finally starting to figure out how to play together” towards the end of this season. Isn’t that their job? Aren’t a collective group of basketball players supposed to resemble a team rather than a group of individuals? And that statement isn’t even true. Miami hasn’t effectively figured out how to use LeBron and Wade in the same play yet. What a joke. Then so many so-called experts credited Dwyane Wade for being the reason why LeBron won the MVP. He finally handed over the reins to LeBron. He was willing to sacrifice his own individual numbers for the better of the team. Oh my goodness what a tremendous guy! You are telling me that it is beneficial to a team if a player make sacrifices for his teammates? No way, that can’t be right… Let me correct everyone. LeBron James won MVP because he is the most complete player in the NBA, the most incredible basketball talent in our generation and the Heat would be a perennial first round exit without him. Don’t believe me? How good was Dwyane Wade doing in the playoffs after Shaq left? How about Chris Bosh? Was Toronto having any luck getting out of the first round? Once those two came together the roster still would’ve needed to take a hit because two max contract players are going to have an effect on the quality of players a team can sign. Believe me, the Heat would be seeded 5-8 without LeBron. Who knows, maybe I would’ve even had the pleasure of watching LeBron and the Cavaliers walk into a lethargic American Airlines Arena and sweep the Heat in the first round. That would’ve brought a huge smile to my face.
What makes me sick about this whole thing is how LeBron gets all the blame for this crumby situation. I know I must sound like every other LeBron fan, but give the guy a damn break already. In Cleveland he wasn’t good enough to win a championship. Then he was a prick to leave the Cavaliers. Next it was his fault the Heat lost in the NBA Finals. This year LeBron only won the MVP because Wade sacrificed his numbers. And when the Heat get knocked out of the playoffs this year every finger will be pointed at LeBron James calling him a choke artist. I joke about terrorism, poverty, obesity and world hunger all being LeBron’s fault, but how far is this going to go? Some people are so eager to hate and criticize individuals who don’t deserve it. I wish some people weren’t so cynical. I also wish that my favorite NBA player still played for my favorite NBA team.