As a fairly avid Dallas Mavericks fan, what I have to say will likely be unpopular in Texas and Oklahoma—if not blasphemy.
But as LeBron James led the Heat to the 2012 NBA title, I found myself reexamining the reasons why I disliked him and his team. And those reasons, like any form of hatred, couldn't hold up to the light of day.
LeBron said some dumb things during the 2010 celebration of him signing with the Heat. He gave a textbook example of how not to leave a team with "The Decision." He should have just quietly told the Cavs owner, coach and teammates that he was leaving before making a more low-key announcement to the media.
But all that was not enough for me to dislike him. If the Heat had beaten the Mavs in last year's finals, I might still hold onto some of it. But Miami didn't. And as much as I still don't like Wade for continuing to bring up the 2006 premature Mavs victory parade planning, the Heat deserved to win the title this year.
That's right, I have to give LeBron his props. He was the best player in the playoffs and carried the Heat when they needed him to, just as Dirk carried the Mavs when his team needed him last year. LeBron even made some big shots in the fourth quarter.
He seemingly matured before our eyes. Instead of doing a premature celebration with Wade during Game 2 of last year's finals, he told Chalmers to not do anything celebratory in the third quarter of this year's Game 5 clincher.
He got that monkey off his back, though some will still say he has to win not one, not two, not three....
The Heat reduced OKC to the largely inexperienced kids that they are. Their dominance in the finals made the Mavs' playoff run last year look all the more incredible.
Dallas remains the only team to beat the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio Heat in a playoff series.
Dallas Morning News sports columnist Tim Cowlishaw recently asked this about the 2011 Mavs: "Five years from now, people will look at the 2011 Mavericks and, while recognizing Dirk, will say, 'How did that team win an NBA title?'"
With chemistry, a key leader and team play—that's how. And that's how the Heat won this year.