James has always been a household name. But where he took the Heat in the last season will draw fans closer than they have ever felt comfortable. The Miami Heat have crossed the villain threshold with a single NBA championship, and they have yet to play the best basketball the franchise’s talent can offer.
An unhealthy Dwyane Wade, an unhealthy Chris Bosh and a shaken, not stirred Mike Miller were able to defeat an Oklahoma City Thunder team labeled too offensively potent for South Beach. The Heat have structured a comeback kids story that fans respond to, and that America responds to.
With one critical hurdle behind them, can the Miami Heat ever become America’s team?
The most important thing a franchise needs when considering the label “America’s team” is a good guy frontman, or at least someone who embodies the principles of our beloved nation. Those smile and kiss babies type of players who make everyone want to embrace their talent, yet deny their transgressions.
The Miami Heat don’t have that guy. But they have someone close enough. Yes, LeBron James would turn into America’s Sweetheart. It’s awkward to have him labeled any other than a traitor, Judas or crybaby, yet all of those labels were undeserved. His most recent as an NBA champion is backed up by official statistics and a smiling photo of Miami’s Big 3.
James may not be the picture of loyalty, if you ask any Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans, but with the "Decision" becoming more a distant memory, it’s hard to imagine that “Judas” theory holding a candle to reality.
James firmly practices charity work and even in his most publicized act of ignorance donated money to the Boys and Girls Club from “The Decisions” proceedings. It may have been an all-advised display of narcissism, but how self-absorbed is a man who takes a $15 million pay cut to keep Miami’s hustle man on board?
Udonis Haslem, after he was lambasted for retaliating against Indiana Pacers’ big man Tyler Hansbrough, told Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard about all that he would do for Dwyane Wade and all that Wade would do for him. This included Wade calling both Chris Bosh and James to take a $15 million pay cut in order to keep UD from venturing off to a place like the Dallas Mavericks or the Denver Nuggets who were offering him $34 million.
Yet, James was painted as one of the most selfish, self-serving and arrogant players the game had ever seen for simply realizing when it was time to go and acting on it at the end of the season instead of during it like someone fans know and used to love.
Sorry, but I just don’t buy that James’ villain image is any more than a masking of how much fans just don’t want to label him the greatest. They’re comfortable with Michael Jordan up there. The reality of the matter is that LeBron, while a little childish at times, is a good guy with great intentions, and he has the most talent in the game of basketball right now.
He’s already been asked to represent America in the Olympics. Therefore, it will not be too long until he’s the representative of what kind of player America, as a whole, idolizes.
The only other way that the Miami Heat could make their position in fans’ hearts solid is by forming that dynasty LeBron was yapping about during the preseason celebration. The quote that was heard around the world, and is still used to this day to excuse the Heat of any success short of the declaration needs to ring true to some extent.
No one thinks that James is going to retire with eight or nine rings. However, three or four will do. The Heat needs to continue on the path of forming a dynasty in South Beach. Why? Because it would make for an amazing story.
Not a soul in America loves anything more than a good story or to see underdogs make it. And if you rewind the 2012 NBA Playoffs, you will see how much of the underdogs the Miami Heat were.
Walking into the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Miami Heat were favorites to win the East over the Chicago Bulls, who were the most likely opponent to battle Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Chris Bosh was injured in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, that position fell drastically, even with LeBron at power forward. Miami began getting pushed around like they were being headhunted by the Pacers, and fans were ready to give up hope.
It would have been the most embarrassing exit the Heat could come by. But LeBron and Wade put on a clinic against the Pacers, combining for 70 of Miami’s 101 points in the victory. Against the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat had fallen 3-2 in a series that was dictated by Boston’s ability to expose the Heat without Chris Bosh’s presence in the middle.
The series was practically over when Miami had to play a crucial Game 6 in the TD Garden. LeBron showed up for Game 6 with zero expression on his face and ice running through his veins, to give fans one of the best playoff performances the league has ever seen.
The NBA Finals were not Miami’s to win, yet it was Oklahoma City’s to lose. The Thunder were far more potent and the Heat managed to barrel through them, ending the series in five games. All of this went on as Wade dealt with child welfare issues, the seemingly troubled mother of his children and a bum knee.
All of this went on as LeBron dealt with demons that had beleaguered him for nine seasons. All of this went on as Bosh was watching from his couch for a chunk of the Playoffs.
How amazing of a story is that?
It’s not whether or not the Miami Heat have the credentials to be America’s team. The core of the question lies in the hands of those who have yet to accept their arrival.
It’s becoming inevitable. Pretty soon America will have no choice. They aren’t the villains consistently crowning themselves before they have earned it and they were in pretty bad health.
How can you hate them after that?