As the San Antonio Spurs were putting the finishing touches on the Miami Heat, disappointment creeped into the minds of Heat fans. The Spurs were out-of-this-world superb, as they played at level few could even match. Like many Heat fans, I’m more disappointed than upset about the Heat’s loss. Losing in the Finals hurts, especially in the way the series played out.
However I never felt any anger. Maybe I’m at peace. Maybe championships help ease the pain.
Or I have a new perspective of being on top. You’re going to get everyone’s best, and the Spurs certainly were at their best. The Heat just ran out of gas at the end. I was upset by the 2011 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. I couldn’t watch highlights of that series for a while. I didn’t even watch the trophy celebration. it seemed like everything was on the line. I understand that was more about pride. More about proving everyone wrong.
After Sunday’s Game 5 against the Spurs? I watched the whole thing. I was happy for Kawhi Leonard winning the Finals MVP. I appreciated what the Spurs accomplished because of how great they played. San Antonio was clearly the better team, so congratulations to them and their fans.
I’m just really appreciative of what the Heat were able to give us over the past four years, and how hard it is to do what they did over that run. This is a franchise that has come a long way in that time. This was a team that was put under a microscope for four straight years, with every move they made was dissected, debated, and criticized over the past four years. They were able to withstand that and come out on top. Four straight Finals appearances is not something to be ignored, nor can it be stripped from them. The Miami Heat are a part of history.
They were in the eye of the storm.
And South Florida was the perfect place to handle the storm.
The Heat were immediately cast as the villains, and South Florida embraced that role. They took it up a notch with the infamous pep rally celebrating LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade, which was South Florida turned up to 11.
Of course, the outcry was that South Florida fans were “bandwagon fans” or nonsense like that. We didn’t deserve these kind of riches. Is there a dumber argument than the “Who has better fans?” one? Seriously, that’s comparable to that kid in school that likes the cute girl, but she’s into the so-called “bad guy”, so all he does is whine about not being able to get that girl and how it would be better if she were with him. The next step is making a mix-tape.
Sure, some are notoriously late for the start of games, some left with 28 seconds left in Game 6 of last year’s Finals, and some boo the back-to-back champions during a game where the best team in basketball was putting on a clinic. But don’t tell me that South Florida sports fans are the only ones in sports that do that. That’s clearly the complaining of a fan grasping at something to make themselves feel better, since the Heat have been successful and people need something to help counter that. But that’s a narrative some fans cling to. Well, how’s that working out for you?
I’d like to think there’s a special connection to the Heat for the people of South Florida. Coming into existence in 1988, a generation grew up with them. They weren’t passed down to us, like the Dolphins (which might be similar to a loved one passing on debt to their kids; my kids are going to hate me), or unable to be trusted, like the Marlins.
We grew with this franchise. We were heartbroken after all those losses to the Knicks.
And the loss to the Pacers in the 2004 Eastern Semifinals.
And the loss to the Pistons in the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals.
Those were our scars. We reached a euphoric place in 2006 when the Heat won their first championship. It eased all the pain. It felt like we had to go through the bad times to really appreciate the ultimate joy. The same could be said for the 2012 title.
The Heat are a part of the NBA’s evolution – one started by the Spurs – of teams in non-traditional NBA markets being able to successfully build a championship contender. Yes, the Spurs had players contribute from spots four through ten in their rotation. But they also had three future Hall of Famers lead the way. Those starts never left, because they believe in Spurs GM RC Buford and coach Gregg Popovich. Sure, stars will be drawn to glamour cities, but they also want to believe an organization can build a winner. It really doesn’t matter anymore where you’re located. There’s something special brewing in Houston and Portland; the fans in Washington DC and Toronto have something to look forward to; Memphis and Golden State are getting closer to breaking through; there’s a championship contender in Oklahoma City. Yes, there might even be one in Indiana. It has become archaic to think that the standard bearers of the league should only be found in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This is a new age.
I’m not ready to address all the moving parts of any possible player movement just yet, as that storyline will be dragged through the mud over the few weeks. I trust in Micky Arison, Pat Riley, and Erik Spoelstra to have a plan in place. They’re a brain trust that has shown time and again that they’ll make the right moves. Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway walked through those doors. So did Shaquille O’Neal. LeBron James and Chris Bosh? Yep. It’s what this franchise has done throughout their history. It’s what smart organizations do. The San Antonio Spurs are proof of that.
Today, we need to appreciate what the Miami Heat have been able to do for us. Fans of Miami have watched them grow these last 26 years, with the last 4 battling for its throne. We can only look forward to what will come next.