How the 2012-13 Miami Heat Stack Up Against the Past 10 NBA Champs
LeBron’s overplayed “Not one, not two, not three...” line has contributed to making the Heat the most scrutinized team in NBA history and put an immense amount of pressure on them to win rings.
Now that the Heat succeeded in winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the initial monkey is off their backs, but they are still expected to repeat as champions or their season will be considered a failure.
While other championship teams in the past have had high expectations to repeat the following season, no team has it like Miami does, and that is because of LeBron James.
With James recently telling the Associated Press that he wants to be “the best of all time,” he has no choice but to continue to win rings, as that’s the only component that separates him from getting closer to that feat.
With that in mind and the fact that Miami reloaded its roster with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, there is no room for error this season. If the Heat fail to repeat, no one will be shedding any tears for James, Wade and company.
The Lakers are the last team to repeat, accomplishing the feat in 2009 and 2010. It’s no easy task, however, as the league as a whole has much improved, so the Heat will certainly have a lot of people gunning for them.
Here are how the 2012-13 Miami Heat stack up against the past 10 NBA champs.
2002-03 San Antonio Spurs
The final season of the Tim Duncan-David Robinson duo culminated in the San Antonio Spurs' second championship in five years, preventing the Lakers from getting a fourth straight title.
The Spurs used the dynamic duo of Duncan and Robinson to beat the Jason Kidd-led Nets in six games.
San Antonio tore through the 2002-03 season, finishing with the league’s best record at 60-22 before beating the Suns, Lakers and Mavericks (all in six games) to reach the Finals. Unlike last season’s Finals matchup between the Heat and Thunder, there was never any question of who was going to win.
The Spurs had a very strong veteran roster that was anchored by two dominant big men and a host of shooters. The Heat’s primary weakness is their lack of size, which gives the Spurs the clear advantage in that department.
Miami’s overwhelming athleticism would have certainly challenged the Spurs, but it would have been tough for the Heat to beat the Spurs' pure, methodical way of basketball.
Given the Spurs' depth, which included Bruce Bowen, Stephen Jackson and Steve Kerr, and the dominance of the “Twin Towers,” the Heat wouldn’t have been able to stack up against San Antonio 10 years ago.
2003-04 Detroit Pistons
The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons arguably had the best starting five of any championship roster in recent memory. They embodied a complete basketball team, starting with the veteran leadership of Chauncey Billups, who ran the offense brilliantly at point guard.
Richard Hamilton acted as the team’s go-to scorer and used his outstanding ability to move without the ball to tire out opposing defenders. There was Tayshaun Prince as the lengthy athlete who could shoot, rebound and defend. Then, there was the great frontcourt duo of Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, who was one of the best defensive players of his generation.
While that Pistons team made it to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, they were only able to achieve one title in that span. As much as Detroit’s complete starting five was a blessing, it was also a curse. The NBA is a superstar-driven league, and the Pistons lacked that.
The Heat’s devastating trio of playmakers would have been too much for the Pistons to handle.
2004-05 San Antonio Spurs
The third championship Spurs team was another classic San Antonio squad, anchored by depth and fundamental, error-free basketball.
The Spurs were led by their superstar, Tim Duncan, and an emerging Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. They had great role players in Glenn Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry.
After breezing through the Western Conference playoffs, they endured a hard-fought battle with the Pistons that ended with the Spurs winning in seven games.
This Spurs team was great, but didn’t have as much punch as their previous two championship squads. They benefited from being one of the very few elite teams that season.
The Heat’s combination of star power and worldly shooting would have been enough to down the Spurs' seamless, selfless play.
2005-06 Miami Heat
The 2005-06 Heat won for one reason—and one reason only: the out-of-this-world play from a young, raw Dwyane Wade. Wade played out of his mind in the 2006 Finals, putting on one of the finest Finals displays in NBA history.
He was magnificent in all facets of the game, slashing through the Mavericks' defense, drawing fouls and showcasing his mid-range shooting ability, while owning Dallas on the defensive end as well.
While he got help from a declining Shaquille O’Neal and solid role players in Antoine Walker and Jason Williams, it was his 34.7 points per game in the Finals that propelled Miami to its first championship.
If it weren’t for Wade’s heroics, a much deeper Dallas team would have probably taken the title. The '12-13 Heat are significantly deeper and much more well-rounded than the 2005-06 title squad. Head-to-head, there’s no question that this new-school, star-studded team would inflict some serious pain on the first championship Heat team.
Advantage: 2012-13 Heat
2006-07 San Antonio Spurs
Once again, the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich-led Spurs celebrated an NBA championship, their fourth title in nine seasons.
This Spurs team breezed through the Western Conference and ultimately owned LeBron and the Cavaliers in a four-game sweep to secure a San Antonio dynasty. The Spurs created one of the NBA’s first “Big Threes” in Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, who all came up big in San Antonio’s championship run.
This Spurs team was beautifully efficient and flawless, relying on a smooth offense and mistake-free basketball to punish opponents. This might have been Duncan, Ginobili and Parker’s finest demonstration of basketball in this respective squad’s era.
Still, their firepower comes nowhere close to matching the current Miami Heat’s range of otherworldly talent. If LeBron’s Cavaliers would have been flanked by some more scorers, they would have had a much better shot. With Wade and Bosh in the picture, the Heat would have been able to break down the Spurs' defensive schemes and ultimately prevail in a Finals series.
2007-08 Boston Celtics
The 2007-08 Celtics were quite simply on a mission. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were indisputably still in their prime and hungry to reach the top. That team gelled quickly and found success in just one year of being together. The C’s were able to knock off the rival Lakers in six games and create a blueprint for future champs in the NBA.
After acquiring KG and Allen, the Celtics had the most dramatic turnaround ever, posting an outstanding 66-16 record to take the NBA by storm. They were led by their vibrant Big Three and a healthy group of veterans as they stormed through the playoffs.
It would be hard to match the Celtics' intensity from that season, as they appeared to be an unstoppable freight train. Still, there aren't many teams that can go toe-to-toe with Miami’s potent lineup of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
As scary as the Celtics were when they first joined forces in 2007, it wouldn’t have been enough to conquer this year’s Heat team. The 2012-13 Heat could counteract the Celtics' arsenal with stingy perimeter and post defense, as well as overwhelm them with menacing athletic prowess.
2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers
Besides the 2011-12 Miami Heat, there wasn’t a hungrier or more motivated runner-up squad than the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to the rival Boston Celtics the year before.
Los Angeles was led by the powerful inside-out duo of Kobe and Pau Gasol. They got help from a stellar supporting cast that included Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza.
This team might not have possessed as much athleticism or unreal talent as the 2012-13 Miami Heat, but there was simply no one who could have stopped Kobe Bryant after losing in the NBA Finals the previous year.
Kobe was coming off a league MVP and was desperate for a ring that showed he could win without three-time NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal.
As much as the LeBron-led Heat would have given him trouble, Kobe’s unparalleled passion and motivation would have propelled the Lakers to the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2009.
2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers
The 2009-10 Lakers were similar to the ’08-09 Lakers but added a world-class defender in Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace. L.A. kept its core of Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and Odom intact and relied on the same Phil Jackson triangle offense to maintain its elite status.
While this Lakers team was still really good, they didn’t make much of an effort to reload their roster, opting to keep the same squad as the previous year. In the current makeup of the NBA, teams always need to be retooling with new weapons to keep up with the landscape.
Despite the Lakers' undeniable talent, the 2012-13 Heat would chew them up and spit them out with their onslaught of new acquisitions. L.A.’s advantage in size would have been combated with the Heat’s ability to employ position-less basketball, and the Lakers would have been overwhelmed by Miami’s speed and athleticism.
Gasol and Bynum would have been able to slow down Miami's front line of Chris Bosh and Shane Battier, but throwing LeBron into the frontcourt mix would have been too much for the Lakers to handle. Add on the three-point shooting of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and Los Angeles would be conceding the throne to the Heat.
2010-11 Dallas Mavericks
Similar to the 2008-09 Lakers, there wasn’t a darn thing that was going to the stop the Dallas Mavericks after they experience repeated heartbreak in postseason play. However, we're comparing the Mavs to the 2012-13 Heat, not the 2010-11 Miami team that collapsed against Dallas.
The 2010-11 Heat were vulnerable and unprepared for a veteran Mavericks team that was fueled by numerous heartbreaking playoff defeats. But, the 2012-13 Heat are battle-tested and filled with talent across the board.
This Heat roster is complete with athletes, shooters, defenders and playmakers who would simply be too much for the Mavericks to contain. Dallas was already a very veteran team when it defeated the Heat in 2011. It would have been difficult for the Mavericks to repeat that same magic against a vastly improved Heat team.
With the Heat’s current makeup of athletes and bona fide superstars, the Mavericks wouldn’t have had a chance.
2011-12 Miami Heat
And now we come down to the final matchup—the 2011-12 Heat against the 2012-13 Heat.
The title-winning roster of 2011-12 was full of ballers who ultimately made the Heat the first franchise in NBA history to win it all after trailing in three separate playoff series. Miami put it together after finally discovering its identity with LeBron James as the alpha male and embracing a position-less basketball team.
Even with all the Heat’s accomplishments during last year’s title run, it doesn’t stack up to this year’s roster.
Miami brought back 11 players from last year’s team, while adding the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter in Ray Allen, as well as the No. 8 all-time distance shooter in Rashard Lewis.
This Miami Heat team completely reloaded and braced themselves for a repeat bid. They are experienced, deep and highly determined to return to the top of the NBA mountain.
There is no question that this is the best Heat team in franchise history, and they have the best opportunity to repeat as champions. Barring a significant injury, there is no reason this team shouldn’t be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end the season.
Advantage: 2012-13 Heat