The start to the NBA regular season is right around the corner. In other words, let the villainy begin.
Never one to be shy with an opinion, Mark Cuban, erstwhile owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has pronounced that fans still view the defending champion Miami Heat as true villains. Further, Cuban says it's good for the NBA. Jeff Caplan, writing for Hang Time Blog, has the story:
The owner of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday compared the LeBron James-led Heat to the Oakland Raiders in their glory days – saying fans either love 'em or hate 'em and that polarization makes for a far more intriguing league for fans, and heightens the competitive juices of rivals.
Really Mark? The Oakland Raiders? You're going a bit far me thinks. The Detroit Bad Boys were a closer approximation to the Raiders, but never mind. Point taken. I still disagree with your choice though.
Rivalries are all well and good. Cuban's right about that. And sure, I've found myself disliking the Heat in the past. LeBron James and his ill-fated “Decision” on ESPN played into a perfect storm of controversy in 2010.
There were a lot of moving parts to the puzzle—some felt sympathy for the Cavs; some felt there was an unholy alliance and conspiracy among the Big Three. There certainly seemed to be a level of smugness from the team. And when early season losses mounted, many fans reacted with glee.
The Heat rebounded that season, of course, before losing to the Mavs in the 2011 NBA Finals. LeBron capped off the loss by belittling NBA fans. Mark Cuban couldn't have been happier. He's still beating that drum, long after his beloved Mavericks lost their luster. Meanwhile, the Heat won two titles and are aiming for a third.
Cuban is correct in his central premise, that the league benefits from intense rivalries. It always has and always will. It's larger than the NBA, of course. The narrative is true across the wide spectrum of sports and famous sports figures. The owner of the Mavericks can't seem to get past the Miami Heat, however. A guy that was once on the cutting edge is now tilting at windmills.
The quest for a third title will have its own distinct storyline. And when the season has passed and free agency looms again, LeBron's next Decision could be great for the NBA. It's highly doubtful that he'll handle it the same way twice.
Still, the question remains—who will be the next great NBA villain? It's fine to speculate; that's the name of the game. I'm not so sure the Heat are a lock for the most villainous team in the NBA. I'm hoping for a new contender for that title. Someone has to be waiting in the weeds. The league needs some new bad blood. Who knows, maybe Brooklyn will bring it.