It's easy to be overrun with superlatives in the wake of something monumental and exciting happening so recently. That has never been more true in 2013, where social media rules and critics and media members seem to have the memory of a goldfish.
The most oft-made statements and opinions following the Miami Heat's win over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals revolve, in some order around LeBron James being compared to Michael Jordan, whether this was the most entertaining series of all time, how the Spurs are done, and, worst yet, how the Miami Heat are an NBA "dynasty."
The criteria for a dynasty is not empirical. Much like debating who is the greatest player of all time, ranking the greatest teams is not an exact science; it is something on which we can only speculate.
Simply put, if you are anointing a team with that label, you're putting them up there with Jordan's Bulls, the Magic-Kareem Lakers, Russell's Celtics, and George Mikan's Lakers. All of those teams won at least four titles, at least once won two championships in succession and had the best player of that era. The Heat already fit the last two items and might be on their way to the first.
But the similarities end there. Each of the aforementioned teams all had an unwavering sense of continuity and overcame insurmountable amounts of adversity over a long period of time. That LeBron's Miami teams have only been together for three years discounts them from those characteristics.
If we're being even more simplistic, each of those teams were simply memorable in a way that altered NBA history.
The Bulls' claim was that they were 6-0 in Finals and never went to a Game 7.
The Celtics? The sheer number of titles speaks for itself; the only team to win a championship other than the C's in the 60s was the Philadelphia 76ers.
Minneapolis was the inaugural dynasty and paved the way for the Lakers to be the marquee franchise of the NBA.
The 80s edition of the Lakers saved the NBA from its version of the Great Depression, where drugs ruled and the league was facing questions about whether it was even the best league in the country.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock of the NBA. And we'll never forget them for that. I didn't have to look any of that stuff up, and that's exactly the point.
The Heat have no such cache to their name yet. The most casual sports fan would have known those things about Jordan's Bulls, but you probably still remember the Heat for their infamous, "Welcome Party" as much as their titles so far.
The two teams they beat in the Finals were somewhat flawed; the Oklahoma City Thunder were way too young, and the Spurs were way too old. No offense to either team, but I'd fear facing Wilt's 76ers or Bird's Celtics a lot more.
Jordan's Bulls never had a marquee opponent, but they simply dominated them in ways Miami never did or will; and the 90s saw an era where the rules and style of play heavily favored teams with talented big men. The centers of that era? Shaquille O'Neal, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning.
We'll continue to harp on the fact that Miami did win two straight. Truthfully, it is much harder to defend the NBA championship than win the first time. Paraphrasing from a secondary source, the great Bill Russell cites players getting satiated and less hungry as one of the main reasons why repeating as a champion is so difficult.
That Pistons team made it to a Game 7 of the 2005 Finals. The 2006 Heat had injury problems the following year. And all the Spurs teams were victims of some comically bad luck, such as the 0.4 shot by Derek Fisher and Manu Ginobili making the most bone-headed foul of the past decade and allowing a Dirk Nowitzki three-point play.
My point is, if you win the championship and keep your core together for the following year, at least from a pure historical perspective, the odds are curiously in your favour that you'll either repeat or have a very, very good chance of repeating.
As much as a third title in franchise history means for the Heat's place in NBA history, people seem to care a lot more about LeBron James' legacy than Miami's. Heck, you could make a pretty decent argument that James should leave the Heat in 2015 using his player option to opt out of his contract.
Dwyane Wade's body could pull an Allen Iverson before then. Chris Bosh had more dinosaur jokes made about him in the Finals than points and rebounds, and he scored the same amount of points that I did in Game 7. Would any of the other Miami players get minutes anywhere else? Hey, at least Miami could challenge the Shaq/Kobe Lakers for the title of "Repeat Champions with the Worst Supporting Cast."
Are the current edition of the Heat great? Yes. I'd put them up there with the aforementioned Lakers, Bird's Celtics, Isaiah Thomas' Pistons and Olajuwon's Rockets; a list of teams that had dynastic potential and relatively short spurts of league dominance, but with flaws that disqualify them from being truly considered dynasties.
That said, Miami did just play in the most entertaining Finals of the past two decades, have the best player in the world—who has a chance to surpass MJ—on their roster and are a big-market team that will have plenty of chances to ascend the imaginary ladder to the NBA dynasties echelon. They might get there in a couple of titles. It might take "not one, not two, not three" more to get there. I wouldn't bet against them.
They just aren't there yet.
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