5 Things Miami Heat Fans Can Feel Thankful for
The "big three" was ridiculed for prematurely declaring their arrival as the NBA's next dynasty before even playing a single game.
Finally, and most importantly, their decision to align together was seen as a slap in the face to the most cardinal rule of sports: There is no I in team.
Of course, in the irony of all ironies, the intent belying their actions was exactly the opposite.
As they have already acknowledged, it was their belief that the world would welcome their unity as a noble gesture of sacrifice, applauded for evolving past the hypocrisy of a sport which embraced teamwork as much as it sought to discover the next Michael Jordan.
Instead, their actions were perceived as the ultimate symbol of hubris.
And the subsequent atmosphere of vitriol carried over with the team throughout the entirety of 2010-2011 season, from the dizzying high of feeling like pioneers to the sobering low of being cheered during a time of heart-breaking failure.
Fast forward to present day, however, and the Miami Heat stand atop the NBA, much as they had likely envisioned on that fateful day when their decision to join together became final and before any media-fueled rude awakening could take effect.
For this reason, Heat fans have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
But, for the sake of argument, let's narrow it down to a cool five.
1. We Got Ray!
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If winning the championship last year was the sundae, then getting Ray Allen this summer was the cherry.
It's one thing if the media and the fans want to criticize the manhood of LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat.
It's a completely different story, however, when it's being barked loudly and incessantly by an opponent on the court over and over again.
Immediately after making a clutch shot to give the Celtics a 3-2 series lead in last year's conference finals, Paul Pierce jogged back to the Celtics bench mentioning something about having the fortitude to take a big shot—an obvious dig at LeBron James.
This was no isolated incident though.
Throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics continually tried to torment LeBron and generally ridicule the Heat for being a team full of drama queens.
Finally, LeBron had enough.
And that's just about the best piece-by-piece explanation you can ever expect to read in trying to understand his extraordinary performance in Game 6 of the conference finals in Boston.
It was so incredible that it visibly demoralized the Boston Celtics and their notoriously rabid fanbase in the span of two hours.
But that wasn't enough.
Because, at long last, the antagonistic makeup of the Boston Celtics finally turned on itself, alienating Ray Allen enough that he decided to take a pay cut to join his former franchise's biggest rival.
Which is really quite poetic if you think about it.
Because, on opening night this season, when the Celtics once thought they'd be stewing about the Heat getting their rings, all their attention was instead focused on one ring-less finger.
2. The Lesser-Known Redemption of Chris Bosh!
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While the storylines across the country circled around LeBron James after Miami won the championship last year, Chris Bosh's own tale of redemption went largely unnoticed.
Once upon a time, Chris Bosh was the proverbial third wheel on the Miami Heat—someone who was paid way more than he was worth.
And, in a very specific way, Bosh's own tale of redemption is more inspiring than the one featuring LeBron James because many of his critics were actually Miami Heat fans—myself included.
Then, in the space of the Heat's last three rounds in the playoffs, he proved his value to the team once and for all, first in his absence, and then in his production.
Meanwhile, this story continues to have a happy ending, as LeBron James' recent remarks of Bosh's importance to the team serve as a testament to how far he's come.
Quite a sunny change of scenery for the former Raptor franchise player, I'd say.
3. The King Has a Ring!
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Remember that climactic scene in The Lion King when Simba walks ever so slowly up Pride Rock before taking his place as the rightful King and proudly roaring to his legion of followers?
Remember how overwhelmed you were with emotion when you first saw it?
That, in a nutshell, is the closest to what I could imagine LeBron James felt when he finally got his ring.
An entire gamut of emotions must have run through his mind.
The joy of being heralded as the best young prospect to ever come into the NBA.
The pride of being able to represent his hometown after its neighboring city's basketball franchise won the first pick in the NBA draft.
The agony of failing again and again in the NBA playoffs in front of an international audience peering uncomfortably over his shoulder and wincing in the kind of suggestive manner that you would if you ached to will a result.
The vengeance that boiled in his blood during his first season with the Heat, as every opposing fanbase in every city booed him with the same kind of unbridled hatred he'd endure upon his fateful return to Cleveland.
The period of self-reflection that must have ensued after undergoing such a devastating setback.
The return of love that had, until that season, perfectly encapsulated his relationship with the game of basketball.
And finally, the validation of winning a ring.
The lesson, as always...what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
4. Long Live Wade County!
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A month before the start of the 2012-2013 season, Sun-Sentinel Miami Heat beat writer Ira Winderman, who has covered the team since its inaugural season, made up a list of top 25 Heat players of all-time.
Dwyane Wade finished first.
Let the rest of the world speculate about whether the Miami Heat are a better team without him because of their record in games he's missed.
If South Florida knows one thing about Wade that it's been privileged to learn in the countless games in which he stepped up at the most meaningful moments, it's that he is too sensible to let emotion cloud his better judgment.
And although I've yet to read a single page of his book, A Father First, I'm sure it can be surmised by that same characterization.
In the same year that LeBron James secured his place in the annals of NBA history, Dwyane Wade officially stamped his own as the most valuable Miami Heat player of all-time.
As visible in his actions of leading the franchise to its first championship in 2006 as he was in taking a step back so it could once again be led in the same manner in 2012, Miami will forever be known as Dade County to tourists and Wade County to everyone else.
5. We Are the Champions!
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Heat fans have more than enough reason to want to live in the present.
1. Oklahoma City is not as good a team as it was last year now that James Harden is gone.
3. The Boston Celtics infused their aging roster with much-needed youth and look to go through growing pains of their own. Plus, we've beaten them in the playoffs in the last two years.
4. The 2012-2013 Miami Heat may be experiencing their early struggles on the defensive end, but no one will argue that they are an even better team than the one that won the championship last year.
5. LeBron James looks happier on the court than he ever has before.
6. Chris Bosh is thriving with small ball.
7. Dwyane Wade is doing a better job preserving his body so that he'll be available down the line for the Miami Heat, both in the playoffs and the team's future.
But for one day this year, let's live in the past.
Miami Heat 2011-2012 World Champions!