LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat: The Greatest Team in NBA History?
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"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing"
Vince Lombardi was a wise man. No words were wiser than this famous quote.
Nobody is arguing whether they have the talent to get it done.
LeBron James is widely regarded as the greatest player in the world. His skill set embedded within his seemingly genetically engineered body is just absurd. The man is 6'8", 265 pounds and moves like a cheetah on steroids.
As if that wasn't enough he was blessed with the rare passing gene. Many players are great passers, but LeBron is one of the few -- along with guys like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd -- to have the raw ability to see a play before it happens. He hasn't even peaked as a shooter yet. Yikes!
Dwyane Wade is one of the best penetrators in NBA history. My intent wasn't for that to sound dirty. He is a dominant scorer, capable of taking over a game at any moment, regardless of who is on the court alongside him. He is a proven winner, who put an entire team on his back en route to his first NBA championship back in 2006.
Chris Bosh, the third wheel, is the perfect compliment for one, not to mention two dominant perimeter players. He has a wide array of skills and can hurt the defense in a variety of ways. He can put it on the floor, using his excellent quickness to finish at the rim, and just as well step back and hit the jumper, all the way out to twenty feet. His shooting stroke is as pure as it gets.
He's also an effective post defender who is among the best defensive bigs in the league, despite his lack of blocked shots. He's excellent guarding the pick and roll.
Throw in a few elite role players. There's Mike Miller, one of the league's most versatile shooters who can play a variety of positions. He also is an exceptional passer and rebounder. However, the Heat will be without their marksman until January as he is out with a torn ligament and fracture in his thumb.
Other players will have to step up.
Udonis Haslem, the team's "glue", will do whatever it takes to get his team a win. He's a phenomenal rebounder and post defender as well as an effective mid-range shooter.
Although they will likely employ a center-by-committee approach
Then there are two more deadly perimeter shooters in Eddie House and James Jones
To be the best ever you have to compare favorably to the best. It sucks they can't go in a time machine and play each of the greatest teams from the past to prove it. And then we certainly don't want Grandpa Bird or Papa Magic suiting up in those short shorts at their current age, with IV fluid waiting on the bench.
Let's identify a handful of teams widely regarded as some of the greatest championship squads ever assembled with their key players and marquee accolades.
1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers - G. Goodrich, West, Chamberlain, McMillian, Hairston
- Consecutive wins record: 33
- Consecutive road wins record: 16
1985-86 Boston Celtics - Bird, McHale, Parish, D. Johnson, Ainge, Walton
- Home wins record: 41-1
- 5 players in the hall: Bird, McHale, Parish, Johnson, Walton
1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers - Magic, Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar, Scott, Green, Cooper
- Won 11 of 12 to open playoffs
- Forever known as Pat Riley's "Showtime" Lakers
1988-89 Detroit Pistons - Thomas, Laimbeer, Dumars, Rodman, Aguirre
- Arguable the best defensive team ever. Definitely the most physical.
- Went 15-2 in the playoffs and swept the Lakers in the finals.
1991-92 Chicago Bulls - Jordan, Pippen, Grant, Armstrong, Paxson
- Jordan and Pippen in their prime
1995-96 Chicago Bulls - Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc, Longley, Kerr
- Regular season wins record: 72.
- Won 87 of 100 games including playoffs.
The bar has been set, and it's sky high. So what exactly do the Heat need to accomplish this year to be considered in the same level of the aforementioned dominant NBA teams? Well, there are three phases and the first is obviously an an absolute must.
1. Win A Championship
You can't be considered the best ever if you aren't the best team in the league during the season and the playoffs.
The Heat will be measured this season by one mark and that's if they can bring home the hardware. Anything less for this absurd collection of stars is a failure, something the players themselves have admitted.
2. Win Convincingly
The greatest teams of all time dominated on a consistent basis. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls had a average margin of victory of 12.3 points. They not only won 72 games but they won so in style. They blew through the league like a tornado, wreaking havoc on any team in their path.
3. Have A Marquee Accolade
If you glance above, every one of the greatest teams ever has something that sets them apart. For the '71 Lakers it was their 33 consecutive wins record. For the 86' Celtics it was their incredible 41-1 record at home.
Miami needs to have an achievement along those lines. To truly have a shot at going down as the best team in NBA history they'd have to set a few of those benchmarks in both the regular season and the playoffs.
For instance, hypothetically they win 73 games and break the Bulls regular season wins record. Then they blow through the playoffs winning 16 of 18 playoff games in en route to taking home the championship.
That would be a dominate performance in both the regular season and playoffs and would catapult them into the argument as the greatest of all time.
4. Play As A Team
The key with this year's Heat isn't about whether they have the talent to overcome the defending champion Lakers. It's whether they can get by with their lack of depth and become a true team.
As it stands right now, before the regular season gets underway, they are a collection of superstars. But they haven't proven these stars can mesh. The critics don't think LeBron and Wade can play together. They say two dominant perimeter players who both need the ball in their hands will be a failure.
Blasphemy. You really don't think either one of those guys can adjust their game? We're talking about two fo the best four players in the NBA, hands down. The best players in the world cannot alter the intricacies of their game?
Here is how it will work. Wade's role as a scorer will not change. It's what he does best. He might be off the ball more often but if you're telling me Wade can't consistently knock down the mid-range jumper you are mistaken.
LeBron will become more of a facilitator. He will use his vision to find the open man and absolutely average double-digit assists. Sure he's going to score but that isn't going to be the focal point with Wade on the court. These two players can and will coexist because they are two of the greatest players of our time.
To be the ultimate team, to be a championship group, the team is more important than the individual. The whole is more critical than its parts. LeBron, Chis, and Dwyane are going to have to forget the individual accolades. The scoring titles and the numbers. They all mean zilch.
They need to embrace a similar mindset to Olympic teams of the past, where gold is the only item on the mind. The only goal is winning a championship, and to do they must be a true team.
Whether the monstrous egos of these stars can move aside remains to be seen. However, just the fact that these stars chose to align, and signed for less money than they could have to better the team around them is a good sign.
This Heat squad has no doubt altered the NBA history books. They took the league and turned it upside down.
Now, it's time to create their future, a future that that many want to end badly. The 2010-11 Miami Heat have the the main pieces in place to go win it all. It's time for Dwyane, LeBron, and Chris to go take it.
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