Roadblocks Ahead: The Three Greatest Obstacles the Miami Heat Will Face On Road to Greatness

I don’t think it’s a mystery how I feel the Miami Heat will do this coming season. I’m in full agreement with Jeff Van Gundy that this South Beach Superteam is going to shatter records on their way to one of the most historic championship seasons ever recorded.

I believe the Miami Heat, with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and company are the greatest roster ever assembled in sports history, by any sports franchise.

The depth and greatness of their talent, almost all of it in its prime, is something we simply haven’t seen in any sport. There have been teams that have come close, but I think Miami’s takes that honor.

I further believe this coming year is just the start of a dynasty that will, when it’s over and done with, be considered the greatest in all of sports history (yes, yes, I’m fully aware of the many great dynasties in sports we’ve seen in the past).

However, in order to play the devil’s advocate, so to speak, I’ll break down the three biggest obstacles in the Miami Heat’s way of reaching immortality. I’ll describe the three roadblocks that could prevent them from both winning a title, and fulfilling their destiny, shall we say.

The first, of course, would be the fact that whoever they play in the NBA Finals will be an incredibly talented, playoff-tested team that should never be taken lightly.

Most experts would agree that team is likely to be the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, but that is never a given. I believe it’s just as likely to be another franchise as the Lakers, as I am of the opinion the Lakers are going to find it hard to live up to the expectations they face.

First, Kobe Bryant’s index finger on his shooting hand is a major concern that the Lakers faithful have ignored, and continue to ignore, as if sticking their heads in the sand will alleviate the problem.

I have the feeling Bryant’s numbers are going to take a dramatic dive this coming season as he finds it harder and harder to do what is the most basic thing that needs to be done in the game, put the ball in the basket.

The arthritis he is suffering from in that index finger can’t be cured, as there is no cure for arthritis. The only hope for any Los Angeles fan is that Kobe can find a way to play through the pain he’ll undoubtedly suffer from it.

He’ll surely have treatment to help, but nothing short of doping himself up with opiates is going to fully alleviate the pain, and that pain is something I believe will make his season look more like his Game 7 performance against the Boston Celtics than the MVP-caliber play Los Angeles fans are expecting.

Simply put, as Kobe goes, so go the Lakers, and I feel he’ll go downhill this coming year, dragging the Los Angeles club with him.

Yet, if he proves me wrong, and the Lakers do find their way back to the Finals, despite my belief Miami would still prevail over them, even I must admit that the Heat would be facing a formidable foe who should be prepared for with diligence.

And if Miami were to face another squad such as the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, or even the young Oklahoma City Thunder, they would do well to guard against being overconfident even if they did come into the Finals as the overwhelming favorite.

Anytime you face a team in the Finals of any sport, whether it’s the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup Championship, you’d be a fool to think you have the series sewn up, even if you’re far more talented than the other team.

All one would have to do is look at South Florida sports history to know that. Who in their right minds (other than Florida fans such as myself) believed the Marlins would do what they did in 2003 against the vaunted New York Yankees?

No one.

In the same way, even if the Miami Heat were to enter the 2011 NBA Finals as the prohibitive favorite over say…the Utah Jazz, who had gotten into the Finals through what many thought was a slew of fortunate events (perhaps Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Tim Duncan all are seriously injured before the playoffs), anyone saying Miami was a lock to win it would be speaking out of the side of their neck in reality.

While it’s great to have bravado as a fan, and trash-talking is the inherent right of everyone who roots for a team, it doesn’t win you championships.

Remembering that would be a wise thing for every single Miami Heat player to do when (I know, I know, I’m supposed to say “if”) they reach the Finals.

Okay, that’s one thing that could derail the Miami Heat’s quest for immortality this coming year; the opposing team in a potential Miami Heat NBA Finals. So, what are the other two?

Well, the second would have to be the possible opposing teams in an Eastern Conference Finals.

There is no doubt that the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and others in the East will be fielding (although that’s not really the correct term since basketball isn’t played on a field) rosters that will be nearly as formidable as the Los Angeles Lakers (at least on paper).

This, of course, means that the Miami Heat would do well not to underestimate any of these squads when they face them either. The NBA Finals aren’t the only place the Heat will have to be on guard against complacency. In fact, they’ll have to be vigilant against that the entire season, as they’ll undoubtedly be facing teams not nearly as talented as they are night in and night out.

If Eric Spoelstra is doing his job, Miami will be up for each one of those contests, and will be putting their foot on the throat of their opponents at all times, so to speak. They should dominate every team they face as if they were down by twenty, even if they’re up by twenty.

To me, that is the mark of a true champion, a team that destroys you so badly and continues to do so even when you’re thoroughly beaten. A team that never lets up. Some would call it overkill, but I just call it kill or be killed. How many times have you seen a team up by twenty with five minutes to go, only to watch them find a way to lose the game.

You don’t ease up on the throttle when you’re up by twenty, you push it to the floor and try and get up by forty. That is the mark of a champion, and it’ll be the way Miami will have to play throughout the season in order to truly instill fear into their opponents. For fear is what is going to win them quite a few games this year.

Just as Mike Tyson won many of his fights not because he was the most dominant boxer in the ring (although he was to a degree), but because nearly every fighter he faced stepped into the ring terrified of him from the beginning, the Miami Heat are going to need to shred their opponents early on in order to let the NBA and their opponents know that they are facing a team the likes of which they’ve never seen before.

Of course, such psychological tools will only take them so far, and they’ll still have to be careful and play their hardest once they face a team like the Boston Celtics or Orlando Magic in the post-season. If they do, I believe there’s no team in the East, no matter how great their roster appears on paper, who the Heat can’t overcome. Will they be a hurdle Miami will have to leap over to get to the Finals? Absolutely, and I won’t be stupid enough to say it’s guaranteed they’ll make that leap, but it’s a good bet.

Now we come to the third and final obstacle that Miami might face on their journey toward greatness. We come to the third and final roadblock that may stop the Heat in their tracks on their road to dynastic glory. Just what is it?

Injury!

Forget all the ludicrous talk that Miami won’t have enough balls for all their superstars. Forget all the idiocy that the chemistry just won’t be there for the Heat. Forget all the ridiculous drivel about how Miami is flawed in one way or another as a team (the trite argument that their frontcourt is lacking for example).

None of these things are anything any Miami Heat fan is thinking about for a moment, as they are fully confident they’re total BS and not worthy of any real concern.

However, injuries are a real and terrifying concern. Miami fans remember all too well what happened in 2007.

No matter how great Miami is or can be, no matter how fabulous the Heat play together, no matter how dominant they are as a team on the court, if injuries befall them, they can topple just as any great team ever assembled could.

Any and all sports fans know all too well that injuries can destroy the hopes of any franchise, no matter how talented. If the team has the greatest players on the planet on their roster, but is forced to play their “backups” instead because of injury, they’re not likely to win many titles, if any.

So, the final, and I believe the greatest obstacle Miami must face is staying healthy. They can certainly face and overcome an injury to one of their superstars, as long as it’s not a season-ending injury, or occurs in the playoffs. The other two, along with the rest of the team, are more than capable of picking up the slack and continuing to win.

However, if Miami were to face the dreaded prospect of a season-ending injury to any of their “Three Kings”, or even an injury to one of them during the post-season that prevented them from playing significantly in crucial games, then all bets are off in terms of them winning a title.

Of course, that’s simply the nature of the game, and of life. You can’t avoid all risk of injury. The only way to do that is to not play. So, the best Miami can do is hope Lady Luck, Fortune, or whatever you want to call it, smiles down upon them.

It did for the Chicago Bulls of the 90s. It did for the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics of the 80s. It certainly did for Boston during the 60s, so there’s no reason to believe it can’t happen for Miami this coming decade.

Yet, if providence has another future laid out for Miami and its fans, it’ll just have to be dealt with.

Miami has everything going for it, and in my belief will be looked back upon in a decade as the greatest sports franchise in history, but those three obstacles laid out above could prevent that from happening.

Are any of them likely in my opinion? No. Thank God for that.

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