Marquee leaders, playoff fixtures and a following as partisan as politics. As LeBron James and the Miami Heat battle the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, we cannot ignore the parallels between the boys from South Beach and the New England Patriots.
Considering their polarizing natures, the talents and personalities of their leaders and their recent disappointments in the postseason, we may aptly consider the New England Patriots the “Miami Heat of the NFL.”
Or, you may think of the Miami Heat as the “New England Patriots of the NBA.” if that sounds better.
To begin, both franchises are highly divisive. You are either sipping the Miami Heat Kool-Aid or rejecting it with disdain. Likewise, you either love seeing the stoic Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lead their troops into battle, or convulse in disgust when they take the field.
Fans of the franchises will say the teams are what make sports fun. They point out that New England and Miami play at consistently high levels that elevate their respective sports, showcase two of the greatest players in sports in James and Brady and make for first-rate entertainment.
Those averse to the Patriots, meanwhile, seem to be allergic to the sight of the team. They are annoyed by the way Brady and co. coolly and confidently dispose of their competition and march through the playoffs year after year.
Similarly, the Heat-haters are fed up with the obsession with the “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as well as LeBron James’ growing legend. To people in this category, the Heat may seem like a pampered and self-centered cadre of egos rather than a cohesive and selfless team.
Neither side is right or wrong. The beauty of democracy is we are free to have our own opinions. And the thick boundary between the opposing views heightens the drama and entertainment. You won’t find many sports fans that don’t have interest in keeping up with the Pats and Heat, regardless of what they may think of the teams.
Back to the similarities. The two teams also share the burden of falling short of expectations on the biggest stage recently. The Pats have fallen short in their last two Super Bowls, losing to the underdog Giants once again last season in Indianapolis, 21-17.
In South Beach, the Big Three couldn’t strike big their first season together amid enormous hype. They fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the 2011 NBA Finals. We will see shortly if the Heat will hoist the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in 2012.
Regardless of conversions in championships, both Miami and New England fans can happily reflect on titles in 2005 (Patriots) and 2006 (Heat).
Clearly, the bar has been set incredibly high for both teams, and both should be fixtures in their respective playoffs for the foreseeable future.
A third clear parallel between Miami and New England is Brady and James. Both stars, the unquestioned leaders and most visible figures of their teams, are already in line to go down as among the best ever in their respective sports.
All Brady has done in ten seasons is win three Super Bowls, earn two Super Bowl MVP Awards, attain Pro Bowl honors seven times and become the youngest quarterback ever to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
As for James, he’s churned out three MVP awards, eight All-Star selections and four NBA All-Defensive First Team honors in his nine seasons.
The only clear disparity between the two superstars is James' lack of a title. But he is on pace to eliminate that incongruity.
Without a doubt, Brady has cemented himself as among the best ever to play pro football. For James, a championship would boost his legacy greatly, but he is all but guaranteed a spot in the pantheon of the greatest to grace the hardwood.
Lastly, we must acknowledge the arrogance of both teams. Coach Belichick brings his share of pomposity to the sidelines with his ever-present smirk, aggressive play-calling and fickleness with the media.
For the Heat, King James is never lacking in self-assuredness. He may be the best basketball player on Earth, but he makes it obvious just how much he enjoys himself and the show he puts on for fans.
Of course, both Belichick and James walk the walk, and their self-confidence is part of the reason they are so successful.
The Patriots are fresh off an agonizing Super Bowl loss, while the Heat have the upper hand in the NBA Finals. Without a doubt, both teams will be in the thick of championship races—and water cooler discussions—for years to come.