Miami Heat vs. Alabama Football: Who Has the Better Dynasty?
With LeBron James and company earning back-to-back world titles, the prophecy he and running mates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hinted proclaimed when joining forces three years ago is closer to becoming reality.
The Heat have been to the Finals three consecutive seasons and appear set to be the NBA’s premier franchise for the foreseeable future.
If there’s one team that can identify with the realm the Heat entered as repeat champions, it's Nick Saban’s Alabama squad.
The Crimson Tide became college football’s first repeat champion in nearly two decades after throttling previously unbeaten Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS title game and have captured three crystal footballs in the last four seasons.
Saban’s Tide is taking a sport with a rich history of parity and leaving everybody else in the dust. Considering the way Alabama has reloaded on the recruiting trail, it isn't showing any signs of letting up (h/t ESPN, subscription required).
The Heat and Tide are American sports’ two unquestioned behemoths. Each squad’s dominance is unquestioned, but which is the pound-for-pound champ?
Alabama has piled up a 49-5 record since 2009, with all five of its losses coming in conference play and all but one defeat coming by five or fewer points.
Winning 91 percent of its games by a margin of nearly 24 points per game illustrates its level of supremacy in college football.
Additionally, in this span, the Tide are 7-4 against opponents that finished ranked in the Top 10.
The Heat have won nearly 73 percent of their games in the Big Three era, with that number dipping to 64 in regular-season games against teams that made the playoffs and combined with their overall record in the playoffs.
But their average margin of victory in that span is only seven points per game, which pales in comparison to the Tide’s figure.
The Heat have clearly been the model organization in the NBA for the last three years, but the Crimson Tide get the slight edge when breaking down the numbers.
LeBron James has evolved into a dominant force who can take over a game in seemingly every way imaginable. Offensively, he’s turned into an efficient scorer who is unguardable. On defense, he can guard any position on the floor.
A pair of triple-doubles against the Spurs, including his 18-point outburst in the fourth quarter and overtime in Game 6 helped his club erase a 13-point second-half deficit and effectively snatched the Larry O’Brien Trophy away from Greg Popovich and company.
Just when you thought he couldn’t top that, James exploded for 37 points in Game 7, which ties Boston’s Tom Heinsohn for the most points scored in a deciding game in the Finals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau via ESPN Stats and Info’s Twitter account.
Alabama’s reign has seen the Tide send 14 first-round draft choices to the NFL since 2009. Stars such as running back Mark Ingram, receiver Julio Jones, safety Mark Barron and offensive lineman Chance Warmack were all elite talents who enjoyed standout careers defined by dominance.
While Alabama has a number of quality players who could be considered as the most talented player in itsr recent run, none can match the singular level of excellence displayed by James.
The King has won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award in four of the last five seasons. At 6’8”, 250 pounds, with the size of a power forward and the athleticism and smarts of a point guard, James is not only the most impressive basketball player, he's the most impressive athlete since Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson.
There’s no question that Nick Saban has already positioned himself as one of college football's greatest coaching legends, and he’s still on top of his game.
Saban has assembled a pro organization on the college level. Any NFL coach would be jealous of the structure and discipline he instills in his players and the efficient way he runs his program,
Even after losing assistants and boatloads of talent to the NFL year after year, Saban has integrated new faces without skipping a beat. Regardless of his personnel, Saban continuously gets the most out of his players.
Miami’s leadership is more spread out. Heat president Pat Riley has assembled a roster built around the multidimensional talents of LeBron James. Head coach Erik Spoelstra may not get as much credit for molding the team, but he is a young and energetic leader who has the ability to convince his stars to buy into his system.
The Heat’s leadership structure has many pillars in Riley, Spoelstra and James, but Saban gets the edge because he is the unquestioned face of Alabama’s organization.
Height of Dominance
Saban’s first championship team at Alabama went 14-0 in 2009. Along the way, the Tide emphatically knocked out Urban Meyer’s Florida squad and took their spot as college football’s supreme bully.
The Tide would start 5-0 in 2010 before having a 19-game winning streak halted by Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks. Only three wins in that streak came by a margin of seven or fewer points.
Earlier this season Miami embarked on a 27-game winning streak that is the second longest in the sport’s history. The Heat won those games by an average of nearly 12 points per game, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes.
Although the Heat’s remarkable streak signifies their status as the best team in the NBA, two seven-game playoff series showed that there are worthy challengers to their throne.
As the Tide’s 28-point victory and destruction of the Irish proved, Alabama has consistently shown their mettle in championship games, winning their three BCS title games by an average of nearly 22 points.
Considering that the margin of victory has increased with each title game victory, that gap appears to be widening.
While the Tide’s winning streak may have been shorter, it lasted more than 13 months while the Heat only carried that pressure for nearly two months.
Trailing 3-2 in Game 6 against the Spurs, the Heat were facing a five-point deficit with less than 30 seconds to play. In a frenetic finish that culminated with a Ray Allen game-tying 3-pointer, fans who left American Airlines Arena early were frantically trying to get back in to witness their team force a decisive Game 7
Game 6 will go down as one of the most memorable moments in NBA Finals history, and if the Heat continue to rack up world titles, the comeback win could become the signature moment of this team’s run (h/t Grantland.com).
The Heat conquered a Spurs squad with a rich, championship pedigree after literally watching stadium workers prepare for the Spurs trophy celebration during the final seconds in regulation of Game 6.
Alabama’s dynasty has two defining moments, both coming at the expense of Les Miles and LSU.
In 2011, the Tide got a chance to avenge a 9-6 overtime overtime regular-season loss to the Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game, and they responded with a dominating performance.
Although the Tide were a controversial choice to even make it into the BCS title game, Saban’s club went into LSU’s backyard and held the Tigers to 91 yards of total offense in a convincing 21-0 rout that left no doubts about its place as the best team in the country.
While the National Championship victory started the dynasty, last season’s 21-17 comeback victory over the Tigers in Death Valley saved it.
Given that the Heat’s remarkable comeback had more to do with the pressure they applied to the Spurs as opposed to the archaic BCS system that allowed Alabama to net a place in the deciding game, the Heat get the slight nod here.
And the Winner Is ...
Both of these teams have dealt with similar pressures in their respective sport. Both have dealt with controversy and both have responded to the considerable hype placed upon them by media and fans alike.
It's no coincidence that each club will be two-time defending champions the next time they line up to compete.
From Nick Saban’s famed process to the brilliance of Pat Riley, both teams have displayed mental toughness that has been drilled into them by charismatic leaders with equal championship pedigrees.
Both have earned the right to be called dynasties. However, when their resumes are paired against one another, the Tide get the slightest of nods as ultimate dynasty in the modern sports world.