Flash back to the 2006 Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. I was 12 years old, and as usual, sticking to my moral code as a Florida resident that if a Florida team is playing, I root for them (excluding Florida State, I'd chop off my toes before that).
The Heat could do no wrong in my eyes, because at that age I really wasn't that up to date with what was a bad call, a flop, etc. I just saw Dwayne Wade, Shaq, and Alonzo Mourning as fantastic players. I rooted religiously for them, and after they finally clinched the championship, I bought Dwayne Wade's shoes and aimed to be like him when I played basketball.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. I had come into my own as a sports fan. I realized how dirty the refs had done Dallas, and two new players had become the targets of my loathing: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Kobe for beating the Magic in the Finals, being a cocky player, and really, just for being so damn good. LeBron had only gained dislike in the past few years, starting with the series in which the Magic upset them, for clotheslining Dwyane Wade (who I still loved) and for quitting in the series against Boston.
I was sitting with my friends and some family members, and we were watching The Decision. My best friend is a huge Chicago fan, and was a huge LeBron fan, so he was positive he was headed to the Windy City, and maybe along with Wade. I had heard reports that he was headed to Miami, but I didn't want to believe it. I hate when players leave their teams, and since LeBron had always been an Ohio resident, he wouldn't do that to them.
I was wrong. With seven fateful words, he headed to Miami, and formed one of the most hated teams of all time, along with Snoop Dogg look-alike Chris Bosh. The whole season, you either loved or hated Miami. There was no middle ground. They practically became the Yankess of basketball. The amount of pity towards Cleveland was so great, people started to root for the Browns. The goddamn Browns.
We cheered when Boston showed them who's boss. When the Cavaliers pitted their forces against them, we tried our best to get them going. We encouraged any criticism and hate, made plenty of no-ring and Delonte West jokes, and laughed when there was mayhem and discord in the locker room and off the court.
But alas, they just had too much talent. They went through the playoffs with ease, disposing of both Boston and Chicago (two of the best teams in the league) like it was nothing. It seemed like the little pre-championship party Wade and Co. had in the summer wasn't celebrating too early.
Well, the boys from Dallas had something to say about that.
What Miami has in pure talent, Dallas has matched in pure hardwork. The main reason the Mavericks are up 3-2 with a chance to clinch on Sunday is the fact they refuse to give up, seeing as all three of their wins have been a result of comebacks. The amount of people rooting against Miami strongly outweighs the amount rooting for Dallas. Several Twitter feeds have been dedicated to the downfall of the Evil Empire (@LaughAtLebron, @CavsForMavs, @LebronJamsEgo).
The hate gathered towards the "Heatles" is immense and undeniable. This will go down as one of the most entertaining Finals; there's no doubt about that. Like Bill Simmons said, these games will indeed be shown on ESPN Classic for years to come. But will the Heat, who are (according to the media) "the most talented team of all time" or the Mavericks who are (according to fans) "the defeaters of all that is evil," be the ones who are remembered for such a spectacular series?
Unfortunately for fans of the NBA, that question will be answered soon enough, hopefully in seven games, but until then, revel in the brilliance, the talent, and the emotion.