Even Without Three-Peat, Big Three Era a Success for Miami Heat

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent IJune 16, 2014

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3), Chris Bosh and LeBron James walk back to the bench after a timeout during an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Miami Heat's bid for a three-peat ended in the most embarrassing fashion possible at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. 

The Spurs picked the Heat apart with unbelievable precision, outscoring Miami by an absurd 57 points in the final three games of the series.

The better team won this year's title, and there's absolutely no room for debate about that.

However, in no way should that completely diminish all the winning that the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat did throughout the past four years.

While the most likely scenario remains that the three stars return to the Heat next year, if Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals happens to mark the end of the Big Three era, that era should be remembered as a success.

Yes, LeBron "predicted" eight championships when he first came to Miami, and some will always hold that against him and this Heat team. 

But instead of hanging on to something LeBron said four years ago when he was joking around and, in turn, focusing on what Miami didn't do, let's take a look at what the team did accomplish. 

Going back to the start of the era: While Miami didn't win a championship in 2011, the Heat still knocked out two giants in the postseasonthe Boston Celtics (conference semifinals) and the Chicago Bulls (conference finals). 

Heading into the Boston series, the Celtics represented the "Big Bad Wolf" to Wade and James, having topped Wade's Heat and James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the previous playoffs. Miami then did away with them in five games. 

As for the Bulls, they went 3-0 against the Heat and won 60 games in the 2010-11 regular season. Miami also got rid of them and their MVP, Derrick Rose, in five games.

In 2012, the Heat defeated the upstart Indiana Pacers in the conference semifinals, receiving a breathtaking 41-point performance from Wade in the closeout Game 6.

James and Wade would face off against the Celtics again in the 2012 conference finals, and after five games, with Boston leading 3-2, it looked like the Big Three would fall short once again.

But then, it happened. James put together one of the most clutch performances we've ever seen, scoring 45 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Game 6. 

The Heat would obviously go on to win the series, and ultimately earn their first ring by beating an Oklahoma City Thunder team that featured Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, three players widely to be considered among the 10 best in the game today. 

The following season, Miami won a league-best 66 regular-season games and put together the longest winning streak (27 games) the NBA had seen since the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers

The Heat would once more face an elimination game in the conference finals, this time a Game 7 versus Indiana. Miami responded with a brilliant performance, dominating the Pacers to the tune of 99-76.

The Heat then battled the Spurs in one of the more memorable finals, which featured perhaps the greatest shot in NBA history by Ray Allen and a 37-point performance by LeBron in Game 7 to clinch a Miami repeat.

And that brings us to this year, where the Spurs exacted their revenge and destroyed the Heat in the NBA Finals rematch. 

While it didn't have the storybook ending, Miami concludes this four-year stretch having become back-to-back champions and the first team to make it to four straight NBA Finals since Larry Bird's Boston Celtics did in 1984 to 1987.

Sure, given the collection of talent this team has had, it isn't completely ludicrous to think it could have won one more title. 

However, there's a reason only five teams have ever successfully completed a three-peat: It's extremely difficult. The physical toll of consecutive playoff runs wears on a team, while the bull's-eye on the team's back only gets larger. The idea that the Heat are a failure because they couldn't accomplish such a daunting task is preposterous. 

Looking at all the playoff triumphs Miami had on the way to four Finals appearances, the Heat's two titles and even their 27-game winning streak, this era deserves nothing but praise.

While, as we talked about before, there's no arguing the Spurs were the best team this year. There's also no arguing that the Heat have been the best team for the past four years.

If that's not success, then what is?

Follow me on Twitter @srichmond93


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