Last night was a glorious night for all mankind. The Miami Heat lost the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks. Sure, the Mavericks were a likable team who deserved to win – they played hard and made great adjustments as the series wore on – but unless you're a Mavs fan, last night was about the Heat losing.
Yes, I am aware the Heat sell a ton of jerseys and apparel. I know they bring viewers to their televisions. I also know that the majority of NBA fans I've talked with dislike the Heat.
Count me in the group of Heat haters. Every shot they made felt like a dagger. Every incredible off balance jumper Dirk Nowitzki took felt like basketball gods hated the Heat as well.
Of course, the question kept creeping up: Why do I hate the Miami Heat? The more I thought about it, the less I was sure. To really understand why the Heat are the bad guys, you really have to go back to last summer.
The summer of 2010 was the most anticipated free agency period in NBA history. Obviously, we know how it played out, but there are a few things worth mentioning. First, no one had a problem when Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade chose Miami. This was before LeBron James announced his intentions to play there. With the right pieces surrounding the two, they could have been a perennial contender. It made sense because while Bosh is an All-Star, he is clearly a rung below Wade.
"The Decision" has defined hindsight being 20/20. Almost every in-depth article written about LeBron says something to the effect of "Well obviously 'The Decision' was a mistake..."
Obviously? How much LeBron bashing went on when he announced The Decision? None. It was a great idea. Rather than finding out from an unscheduled ESPN breaking news update or waking up one morning to see it online, James gave us a specific time and date when we would know. I know I was excited for it.
The actual show wasn't the best. LeBron said all the things you'd expect: it was a hard choice, he talked to his mom a lot, yada yada yada. Then he dropped the bomb with the now immortal phrase, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."
A few observations on reactions to "The Decision":
- Unless you're from Cleveland, the "I can't believe he did that to Cleveland" should have colored your opinion of LeBron for no more than a month. It was ridiculous how much people pretended to care about Cleveland. Yes, they have a tortured sports history, and this was tragic for them to lose LeBron. But let's be real, if LeBron went somewhere else, I doubt people would have rallied for Cleveland in such a manner.
- Another played out argument was "It wasn't that he left Cleveland, it was how he left." Again, this is the hindsight argument. No one had a problem with the "The Decision" before it actually took place, I don't think everyone one of the nine million viewers thought the show was created to announce his return to Cleveland. There was a very real possibility that he would leave the Cavaliers on national television.I argue that the majority of people who tuned in were hoping he'd leave. I mean, how anticlimactic would it have been for him to just return to his old team?
The fundamental problem with LeBron James' choice was that he teamed up with another top five player. Rather than have his own team, he opted for co-ownership.
The irony is that James, Wade, and Bosh did something that fans always dream about: they sacrificed money to play together. How many times have basketball fans had conversations along the lines of "what if player x and y decided to join forces?" Miami's big three sacrificed money and glory for what they believed (maybe misguidedly) was the best opportunity to win.
Unfortunately for the big three, that was not the narrative. The story quickly became that James decided to give up and take the easy way out. Looking back, it makes sense. In the 2011 Finals, LeBron seemed authentically afraid of the moment as evidenced by his fourth quarter vanishing acts. For a player hailed as the next Jordan, being at best a co-leader seemed underwhelming.
The day after "The Decision" served to validate the sports world's feelings of ill will toward Miami. They welcomed in the big three as if they were celebrating a championship. Suddenly, everything James,Wade and Bosh said seemed arrogant. They had become public enemy number one.
After joining forces, there was virtually nothing the Heat could do to win back the hearts of basketball fans. The fact that they committed themselves to defense (something usually celebrated by fans) didn't matter. The fact that James and Wade remained two of the least selfish superstars in the game didn't matter.
Ultimately, the Heat are hated because they violated our expectations of how great players should be wired. After Jordan's hyper-competitiveness and Kobe Bryant's extraordinary, but not a Jordan-level, competitiveness, see two of the five best players in the game team up was disappointing. They should have wanted to beat each other.
Miami's big three are not bad people. They deserve credit for their effort and selflessness. Sadly, their mistakes receive infinitely more coverage than their successes. It's not fair. That being said, seeing them lose on their home court still made me feel that the universe was once again in order.