The success of the defending champion Miami Heat is frequently written off by fans and pundits of the game. Many treat their glut of superstars as a lucky windfall and deny the Heat the respect they deserve for what’s actually a rare high-wire act.
Superteams have frequently failed before, and it’s largely been because they were incapable of mutually fostering a culture of acceptance and role-playing synergy.
Personality is a real obstacle in this league. Just ask last year's Los Angeles Lakers, who were expected to storm the league with four all-stars in their starting lineup, but instead quickly ambled into soap-operatic goofiness and a quick exit from the playoffs they barely made.
The Heat belong in premier historical company in this regard. They’re on track to stand with the Chicago Bulls, Lakers and Boston Celtics of yore as exemplars of how to mix players of various statures, ages and backgrounds toward a championship arc.
This is why they’ve been able to add Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley onto their roster to prolong their title-seeking level. Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have worked together to construct a concept that a diversity of NBA talent can buy into.
Most of the rest of the league cannot take the sorts of gambits the Heat take on. Beasley, in particular, sticks out as a player who was unlikely to pan out as a helpful presence elsewhere. His history is one of not buying in—of reckless off-court behavior and a refusal to mold his game into a team structure.
Like they did with Andersen, however, the Heat took a chance on Beasley when he was written off by the rest of the NBA. They trusted that they could look past the flaws of both men and humble them into essential role players.
The mentality of this team is such that they believe (with good cause) that they can make lemonade from all kinds of lemons.
New Heat member Roger Mason Jr. believes this singular capacity is a testament to the team’s intelligence. He told Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick that:
"Out of a lot of teams that I played for, this is the smartest group of teammates that I’ve ever had, and that’s both on the court as far as basketball IQ, but then off the court as well," Roger Mason Jr. said. "We talk about many, many things that don’t have to do with basketball that I haven’t typically been able to speak to teammates about in the past."
Mason's words recall the ethos of coaching legend Phil Jackson, who similarly espoused the value of non-basketball pursuits as a means of improving his team. Jackson is famous for treating his players to individually tailored reading selections when they went on road trips. Jackson's methods were crucial in the success of reclamation projects like Dennis Rodman and Brian Williams, castaways who approached the game a lot differently than the ever-intense Michael Jordan, but who helped the Bulls win titles nonetheless.
Claims that the Heat have merely ganged up on the rest of the league by compiling a surplus of top-shelf talent fail to recognize the many facets of their thriving. By acting as the open-minded, adaptive, selfless mass that they've been, they've consistently improved as a team while the bulls-eye on their chest just gets larger and larger.
The currently unmatched greatness of the Heat can be traced back to the attitude their three main stars carried into their simultaneously penned contracts.
While their getting together will always be remembered for its boasting and bombast, they did all take less money to be together; they all sacrificed and challenged something of themselves in the name of the greater good. This truth is manifest is the way they share the floor—in their indomitable chemistry. It takes a buy-in to stay in Miami, because the Heat's trapping defensive strings and always-an-extra-pass offense demand a team that's in synch with each other. These Heat have made that rhythm miles easier by emphasizing their inclusive spirit.
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