OK, it’s been just about a week since LeBron James made his “Decision” on national television, effectively (albeit unintentionally) ripping the heart right out of Cleveland Cavaliers fans everywhere, and simultaneously giving every fan of basketball south of the Florida-Georgia state line a reason to feel like a kid at Christmas who’s just woken up to find he got every present he’d ever dreamed of.
The outrage over the “Decision” didn’t just come from Cavaliers fans, either.
There was no dearth of articles being written by those in the mainstream sports media and here on Bleacher Report, as well as thousands of comments posted in response to those articles and on blogs expressing equal parts disdain, anger, bitterness, and envy from fans of the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks, Nets, etc.
As Greg Cote of The Miami Herald put it in his piece titled Outrage over Miami Heat is hypocritical, amusing, “LeBron James turned from adored to abhorred overnight, apparently.”
As Cote also notes, Miami in particular, and South Florida in general, have instantly been transformed into the region of America most basketball fans hate now. He also brilliantly notes that we’ve (we being fans of teams from Miami) seen this before, during the late '80s and early '90s, as we lovingly watched the 'Canes crush their opponents and gain armies of “haters” throughout the land.
I’m with Cote in saying, “Isn’t this great?”
For far too long Miami has been the punchline for many fans around the country. The 1997 and 2003 Marlins, and the 2006 Miami Heat did their best to turn that around, but let’s face it, the Marlins were constantly having fire sales every time they won a title, and the 2006 Heat were dismantled almost as quickly as they were formed.
Fans around the country simply didn’t fear Miami teams. Oh, sure, we definitely were capable of winning titles. That was proven. However, it came as a surprise to the rest of the country.
They were, as my article A Night to Remember: The 2003 Florida Marlins Shock the World shows, shocked each time the Marlins won, and despite a commonly held belief in Dwyane Wade’s greatness, were equally shocked when the Heat overcame an 0-2 deficit in the 2006 Finals to grab a ring.
All that changed last Thursday night. Not only do fans around the nation fear the Miami Heat, they are scared out of their wits.
They’re so scared that they’ve come out of the woodwork to write article after article after article just here on Bleacher Report trying to convince themselves and the rest of the world that the Miami Heat aren’t going to succeed.
Vegas disagrees with them, however, having the Miami Heat the prohibitive favorites to win a title in the first year of the new “South Beach Superteam” of “Three Kings.”
Sure, Dwyane Wade has said the Lakers should be favored, and not the Heat. That’s Dwyane Wade for you. He’s always been humble, and even when he doesn’t believe something, he’s smart enough to say the right thing in order to not provide locker-room fodder for his enemies.
That is something Miami Heat enemies don’t seem to understand, as they’ve provided tons of locker-room fodder for these three for next season. Think all these articles critical of LeBron and Miami aren’t going to fuel James and the Heat to succeed? Think again. Pat Riley will make sure every single one of them is plastered on the walls all season long.
That goes for all the critics who’ve written that the Miami Heat will be nothing but the “Big Three,” as they dub Wade, Bosh, and LeBron, and a bunch of D-League scrubs.
You think Riley isn’t going to put those articles up on the wall to motivate Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, and possibly Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Williams and others? You betcha he will.
You and me both, Flash!
As for those like former All-Star forward Charles Barkley, who’ve tried to criticize LeBron James, and his decision to join Wade and Bosh in South Beach, Dwyane had the following to say:
“The worst thing I’ve heard is from a colleague, Barkley, saying if he was 25 like LeBron, he wouldn’t team up with guys, but when he got older, he tried to team up with Scottie Pippen and Hakeem Olajuwon. Why wait until you’re old and you have nothing left in the tank?”
Right on, Dwyane. Why would any player in his right mind not jump at the chance to do what Barkley and many others have tried to do throughout the history of the NBA and join up with other superstars to get a ring? Furthermore, why would any player, given the chance, not do so when he’s young and in his prime?
Barkley was completely disingenuous when he made those remarks. Barkley would have loved the opportunity to play alongside the others on the Miami Heat’s roster if he was still 25 years old right now.
Of course, D-Wade still loves him. As he said of Barkley, “I’m not taking him out of my [Fave] Five.”
I just wonder if Sir Charles will be included in many of Wade’s new endorsement deals that are sure to come. I have a feeling most of those deals will hinge on the team concept of Wade, Bosh, and LeBron being together, so it won’t be an issue with those, but even the ones that don’t Wade will probably shy away from sharing the limelight with his friend.
Wade may still love you, Charles, but I doubt he’ll be allowing you to “team up” with him on many deals now that you’ve publicly claimed (as I’ve said above, not believably) that you wouldn’t have “teamed up” with him on the court in your prime.
All of those making those criticisms of LeBron, especially those claiming he’s tarnished his legacy and brand, I believe are going to be in for a real shocker. I believe, as B/R Contributor Drew Bonifant so ably laid it out in his article, A King in Search of a Ring: How LeBron James May Have Saved His Legacy, that contrary to those critics’ beliefs, LeBron’s brand and legacy will be enhanced by this move over the long-run.
As Drew tells it, all past greats have had to prove their greatness, even when they’re teamed with other superstars (he references the “Showtime” Lakers comprised of Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar), and “For the Heat to win titles, LeBron will have to show his.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
While I understand many haters believe Miami will fail, I can’t for the life of me understand those who, while they believe Miami will succeed, have this concept in their head that the Heat will do so without LeBron James showing the world and his detractors just how great he is.
I mean, do they really believe Miami is going to win titles while LeBron James sits back and watches it happen? If they do, I believe they need to see a shrink, because they’re insane.
Miami is almost certain to succeed, and LeBron James' greatness will be an integral part of that success.
Sure, you’re welcome to believe otherwise, and you can reel off teams in the past comprised of “superstars” coming together that haven’t succeeded. Of course, those teams you’ll name will almost certainly be like the one Wade referenced above, the Houston Rockets squad comprised of three “very past their prime” Hall-of-Famers.
However, I challenge someone to show me a team like the one we have in South Beach that failed. Can’t? Well, that’s not surprising, considering we’ve never really seen anything exactly like it.
Yet, there have been teams, like the “Showtime” Lakers and Boston Celtics of the '80s and the Bulls of the later '90s that we can use as pretty good comparisons.
Unfortunately for all of the Heat critics, those teams were dynasties that won multiple titles.
So, as Greg Cote said to all the haters out there, to all of your anger, envy, bitterness and sour grapes? “It amuses us.”
On that note, I’ll also do a little mea culpa here. When LeBron made his decision last Thursday, I felt Riley was going to keep Michael Beasley, and I also believed a few other minor things about how the roster would shake out.
The Heat definitely didn’t need to trade Beasley, since with Wade, Bosh, and LeBron taking paycuts, they had plenty of cap space to maintain his roster spot.
However, Riley went in another direction entirely, and I can’t fault him for that. After all, when it comes to player personnel, I’ll be the first to admit Riley is the genius and I’m merely an amateur.
And frankly, when I learned what direction Riley was taking, it pleased me plenty. I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that Udonis Haslem would be with another team next year. I was immensely saddened by that thought, but I felt it was an acceptable sacrifice in order to get the “Three Kings” in Miami Heat uniforms.
Therefore, when I learned Haslem was likely to return because Riley had traded Beasley to Minnesota, and to top that off, Miami would be getting the 2005 Sixth Man of the Year award-winner, Mike Miller, I can only say that I was ecstatic.
I also believed Dorrell Wright and Quentin Richardson would decide to take the vet minimum to play with this team.
I thought for sure that Wright would want to be a part of another title run with his buddy, Wade. However, the lure of $11 million over three years, and the possibility of starting and showcasing his talent, trumped the idea of a quick ring.
I don’t fault Wright’s thinking. I’m sure he believes he might be able to help build a champion somewhere else as a starter. That is the kind of competitive thinking you have to admire. However, I believe Miami will be winning multiple titles in a row (as many as seven or eight), and I fear Wright may never be a part of a team that hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Richardson fell victim to the same lure, albeit his lure was from a team that actually has some serious parts.
Again, while I would have loved to have had Q-Rich stay with the Heat and provide them with more firepower from the outside, I wish him well. I fully understand that he desires to be a starter, and is convinced he’ll have just as good a chance at a title on Orlando as he would have in Miami.
Conventional wisdom says his decision was a smart one. We’ll have to see whether it was or wasn't later.
Finally, I’ve also stated that I believe Miami is bound to sign Shaq and Jason Williams. Even though they’ve come to terms with Ilgauskas, I believe that is still very likely—in fact, almost certain.
My sources tell me that the biggest thing holding up a reunion of these two former champions with their buddy Wade in South Beach is the desire by both to be signed to multi-year contracts (my source says they want at least two or three years).
That snag might eventually prevent them from joining the “Three Kings” in Miami. If so, then so be it. Miami will still build a formidable squad around Wade, Bosh, and LeBron. Riley is brilliant, and as my article here laid out, only a fool would doubt his genius.
So, all that remains is for some minor additions to be made, and we’ll see what this Miami Heat’s final composition will be. Whatever it is, the fact that it will include Wade, Bosh, and LeBron means it’s certainly going to fulfill David Stern’s desire for it to be a global phenomenon.
Will it also end up being too much for the NBA to handle?
I think so.
As LeBron put it when he was introduced to Heat fans on July 9, with Pat Riley concurring, the South Beach Superteam isn’t looking to just win a title or two, they’re looking to challenge the Boston Celtics of the '60s as the greatest sports dynasty ever.
The only way they’d do that is if they won a minimum of seven titles in a row, beginning this coming season.
I believe in the signs fans were holding up at the reception party held at AmericanAirlines Arena last Friday, saying “Yes. We. Did.”
What you see in the photo attached to this article is the same sign they’ll be holding up in 10 years, celebrating having done just that.