There's a quote from a wise old man that stands the test of time.
To be the man, you have to beat the man.
Okay, so maybe that's a catchphrase pro wrestler Ric Flair always used to drop when he got tired of wooing and strutting around all the time. But still, those words apply to any consideration of the Miami Heat this season.
No matter how good Indiana or anyone else looks, and no matter how shaky Miami looks, until the Heat get beat, they should be considered the best.
And if Miami is able to prevail and bring home another championship? There will be no reason for the Big 3 not to stick together and give it another go, even if it's just for one more year. Dynasties almost solely end with defeat, not with decisions.
But what happens if Miami does falter? Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh can all exercise their early termination options for next season and enter unrestricted free agency, if they wish to do so.
And honestly, why wouldn't they?
The clock is already ticking on Wade and his worrisome knees, so this may be his last chance at pulling down one more enormous deal.
James can do whatever he wants, so leaving the door open for another opportunity by opting out of his current deal makes plenty of sense, particularly if Wade no longer looks the part of a capable sidekick. If it turns out another younger, more talented "superteam" is ready to assemble, James should be ready to spearhead that.
But what about Chris Bosh? If the Miami Heat don't win the title this year, what will he decide to do?
While it's hard to imagine the Big 3 not consulting with one another before making their decisions this offseason, Bosh may stand to lose the most by not becoming an unrestricted free agent.
One can reasonably expect that Bosh won't gleefully leave behind Miami or scoff at the opportunity to keep playing with the greatest player in the world, but players know they have to look out for themselves financially. Would Miami commit to an extension with Bosh without James locked up? Would Bosh?
There will need to be a certain level of trust here between the Big 3, as one player going his own way could make this thing unravel.
If for some reason Wade or James do leave, Bosh can protect himself by keeping the option alive of being able to sign a max deal elsewhere.
With LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love likely headlining the 2015 free-agent power forward class, it may make more sense for Bosh not to compete with those players for contract offers or landing spots and try to find a deal this offseason.
Another factor in Bosh's decision may be that his home state could have three teams with max or close to max cap space this offseason, depending on what happens with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in Houston, Tim Duncan in San Antonio and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
There's very little downside to Bosh deciding to terminate his contract early. Long-term financial security isn't an issue to a guy like James, but for Bosh, he's mortal enough to be deemed unworthy of a max deal should he suffer through injuries next year.
And again, Bosh testing free agency this offseason doesn't mean he has to leave Miami. If James signs back on with Miami, the decision to go back is a pretty easy one.
But what if Bosh didn't wait on James, and decided to leave Miami for a max deal elsewhere? You would have to think James might seriously consider looking elsewhere himself, particularly if Wade can no longer stay on the floor. Or maybe more likely, another free agent could come on a discount to make a run for a title with James in South Beach.
This is all getting ahead of ourselves, though. Miami has to fail to win a title first, which is no safe bet. Bosh has some incentive to exercise his early termination option either way, but it will be much easier to justify if Miami fails in the postseason.
If Bosh opts to protect himself financially by entering free agency this offseason, perhaps a savvy team could lure him away and break up the Big 3 for good.