While those in Washington supporting the Wizards might have thought themselves lucky for drafting the number one pick, John Wall, their summer elation was nothing compared to anyone connected with the Miami Heat franchise.
In the biggest free agency coup of NBA history, they picked up two of the league’s best players in LeBron James and Chris Bosh—and kept their star man Dwyane Wade.
While those in Cleveland decided to become amateur pyromaniacs, experimenting with polyester, the Miami Heat cleared the draft room to create one of the most exciting rosters the NBA has ever seen.
Despite the LA Lakers picking up their second championship in a row in June, and also improving their squad over the summer, many in the game believe it will be the Heat, with their star-studded squad, who will be filling their nostrils with the sweet smell of success.
But does that guarantee victory? Let’s look at Real Madrid’s summer of 2009, an obvious comparison.
For those who don’t know much about La Liga, it’s one of the top soccer leagues in the world, reaching unforeseen heights at this moment in time because of the success of the Spanish national team, who won the European Championship in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.
La Liga is typically dominated by two clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona—you could say they are the league’s equivalent of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, with an equally intense rivalry. Since the league was founded in 1929, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have won it 51 won times between them, Real Madrid lead the way with 31 wins. No other team has double digit wins of the league.
After national and world domination by FC Barcelona in 2008-09 won them a sextuplet of cups, Real Madrid responded in the summer of 2009 the only way they knew how—by making major purchases.
To a team that had already come comfortably second in the league, Real Madrid added Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, and Karim Benzema—for a combined fee of $305 million.
Signing James and Bosh is small fries in comparison, the signings made Kaka and Ronaldo the most expensive soccer players ever. It’s difficult to compare to in NBA terms as there are more star players in world football, but if Chris Paul, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony all joined the Orlando Magic, it might be similar.
And how did Real Madrid’s fortunes change following these additions? Instead of trailing FC Barcelona by nine points (equivalent to three wins) like they did in 2008-09, they trailed them by three points in 2009-10.
Although Real Madrid increased the number of points they got, FC Barcelona became a stronger unit, they brought through their rookies and were also able to increase their number of points.
This season both teams strengthened further. Real Madrid spent more money buying out the contract of manager Jose Mourinho, who won the UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan last year. Maybe this year they will come closer to overtaking FC Barcelona and actually beat them, we’ll see.
What can the Miami Heat learn from Real Madrid? That patience might have to be the name of the game they play, as the team gels together to form a unit worthy of taking down all comers and winning a championship.
By no means am I saying they won’t win a championship this season, they have as good a chance as any team in the league, and it would be very exciting and game changing if they were able to.
This is not the first time Real Madrid have adopted this policy, which they call signing Galacticos. Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas brought the club a lot of success in the mid-20th century.
At the turn of the millennium they signed Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo (from Barcelona), Ronaldo, and David Beckham. While they did enjoy some success, it was minor considering the outlay.
So as Real Madrid have shown, having the parts and then assembling them are two different things, and this may be where the Miami Heat come unstuck in their first season. Maybe.