So it’s over.
The controversial, drama-filled 2010-2011 basketball season has come to an end. An end many believe to the be the “right” kind, where the underdog good guy crushed the villainous Goliath. I, a Miami Heat fan from the years before they became the NBA’s Three Headed Monster, am left with one question: Now what?
My sports world was turned upside down when my hometown’s hero (and it pains me to type this because I don’t think I’ve called this man by his name since that Decision fiasco) Lebron James (who will henceforth be known as #6 throughout the duration of this post) decided that he would “take his talents” to the team that I’d cheered for over the Cavaliers since 2003 when they drafted my favorite college hooper, Dwyane Wade. People expected me to be pleased with the Decision. Finally, my team and favorite player would have the help they needed to return to the top of the NBA food chain. But I wasn’t. My emotions ran somewhere between anger for the way #6′s departure utterly embarassed the city of Cleveland and fear that this superstar experiment was doomed to fail. On paper, it looked like a great idea. But paper left out some serious intangibles. Namely, #6′s “look at me, but don’t blame me when we lose” attitude.
I never had any reservations about who would lead the Miami Heat. I’d said for years to anyone who would listen that Wade was the better team leader. Besides if #6 thought he was cut out to lead a team, he wouldn’t have gone to a team that already had a superstar captain. I did wonder if he’d actually be able to listen and take direction. It’s one thing to not want the weight of an entire team on your shoulders, but respecting authority after you’ve spent seven years doing whatever the fuck you wanted, because you could? Well, I just didn’t see how one could reverse or change that behavior.
Then came the “Welcome to Miami” pep rally. As a fan, it was hard to not get caught up in the excitement of the moment, so I can only imagine how Wade, Bosh, and #6 felt. Besides, unless you’re talking about University of Miami football, it’s hard to get the city of Beaches, Bitches, and Blow excited about sports, so I understood the need for hype. If nothing else Miamians love a good party, so the pep rally was set up to woo the fans back to their NBA team. And I think I could have lived with that…until these fools started predicting championships. I recall burying my head in my hands at that point because in my heart of hearts, I knew: this would not end well.
It was hard for me to tune in when the NBA season began. There was just so much… drama and I hated it. I hated that I went from cheering for a team that no one gave a damn about, to standing in the middle of two extremes: the Bandwagoners who’d come with #6 or just liked frontrunners and the people who despised the Heat’s very existence. I couldn’t necessarily blame the angry folks, hell I still had mixed feelings about the Three Headed Monster myself, but the Bandwagoners? If fandom really operated like a bandwagon, let’s say I would have stood on the back of the wagon, kicking folks off with steel-toed boots. Then came the soap opera. “Oh, the Heat are losing. What’s going on?” “Did Lebron bump Coach Spoelstra?” “Who’s really the team leader?” I honestly stopped watching Sportscenter for a good two months and started referring to my team as the Miami Clusterfuck. That’s the kind of fan I am. I’ll cheer for you all day, but I won’t be ruled by delusion. Wade and #6 couldn’t find a rhythm that would allow them to share the floor and play well. Watching #6 fail to close game after game made me want to scream “I TOLD YOU SO!” from the highest rafter I could find. And Bosh? Well, Bosh couldn’t find his place at all. They’d gone from “The Big Three” to “Two and a Half Men” and Bosh earned the nickname “Bosh Spice” from Skip Bayless (which I thought was hilarious and will use from now until forever). It was a sloppy, drama-filled mess and the only thing that kept me hanging on was the guilt I felt whenever I considered changing allegiances. This had been my team for eight years. If I survived that God awful fifteen win season in 2007-2008, I could survive the Three Headed Monster. I decided to tough it out.
I was rewarded for my loyalty when finally, shit started to click. Even then, I didn’t brag or get too excited. I just thought “ABOUT FUCKING TIME!” When the playoffs began, I approached with trepidation. Did I like the looks of my team? Yes. Did I trust them to consistently play at a high level all the way through to the NBA Finals? No. I’d seen them get ‘laxed and blow too many leads to believe that they had it in the bag. I took it all a game at a time. I didn’t talk shit. I didn’t make any predictions. I just watched and waited for them to show and prove. As each round closed, I allowed myself to get a little more excited, but still planted firmly in reality. They could blow it at any given moment.
That moment came in Game Five of the NBA Finals.
When the Mavericks went up 3-2, I realized it was a wrap. This 2011 Heat didn’t have the same heart and guile of the 2006 team that thundered back from an 0-2 deficit to snatch the championship from under Dirk Nowitski’s nose. Hell, they didn’t even look like the same team that had survived an all-out battle against the Chicago Bulls in the previous round. I held on to a shred of hope that they’d “turn it on” (why the fuck it was ever turned “off” during the NBA Finals is beyond me) and tough it out through Games Six and Seven. They didn’t.
I was disappointed. Mostly because my favorite player, the man I’d watched put that 2006 team on his back and demoralize the Dallas Mavericks, didn’t make an appearance in those last two games. Maybe he had some off nights. Or maybe he just didn’t want it enough. I’m going to go with the latter. The only player who seemed to have any real fight in him was Chris Bosh and for all of his gangly awkwardness, he earned my respect that night because whatever he had to give, he left it on the floor in Game Six. Including his tears. But whatever. That just showed me he gave a damn about losing an NBA title on his home court. Which is more than I can say for some of his teammates.
I’d healthily skipped all of the stages of grief and settled comfortably at acceptance, when the press conferences began. And #6 starts talking. And with each word that comes out of his mouth, I get more and more upset. I hear blabber about “haters,” “doing the best he could,” and the work he does “when no one is watching.” And “I.” Lots and lots of “I.” Wade uses more “we.” Talks about letting the series get away from them, and learning from the loss. He didn’t break down into tears like Bosh, but I got the feeling that the loss would haunt him all summer. As it should. Because I love Wade, but he sucked in that last game. No denying that.
Lebron, on the other hand, (and yes I’m using his name) sounded like the same dude who zoned out and quit on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Nonchalant. Selfish. As a fan, I felt disrespected. Sir, you just lost an NBA title on your home court in a game where you were damn near invisible. And all you’ve got to talk about are your “haters” and how hard you practice when no one’s watching? What does any of that matter if you can’t perform? And weren’t things supposed to be “different” now that you were on a team you no longer had to carry? Wasn’t this arrangement supposed to make it easier for you to win? So if it wasn’t a lack of talent or support around you, what was it this time? Honestly, he sounded like the twenty-five year old woman who proclaims that “Men ain’t shit,” because I wanted to scream at the TV “It’s not ‘them.’ It’s YOU!”
Now that it’s all over and the dust has settled on the 2010-2011 season, I have but one question for the Miami Heat organization: Who is going to stand up to Lebron James?
Will it be Dwyane Wade? The team captain and #6′s BFF who sat next to him during that post game presser and listened to him spew excuses and selfish drivel as if they hadn’t just lost one of the biggest games of their lives? Will it be Pat Riley who paid #6 a pretty penny to come to South Beach to help them make a championship run?
You wanted him, South Beach, so you got him. And his talent for attracting attention and brushing off big losses with excuses. Good luck with that.
It’s going to be an interesting off season.
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