For every sports anchor, ESPN is more than The World Wide Leader, it’s The Destination.
Before and after their sports hours on local television, it’s where anchors dream of hosting Sports Center. For ESPN, it doesn’t matter who is anchoring. They can lose Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen and be just fine. They can lose Michelle Beadle and convince her to come back.
ESPN, regardless of how you feel about the network, is the place to be for sports anchors.
In the NBA, we have a few destination franchises.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, for sure. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls are too, though to a lesser degree. That was your Power Four. Those organizations had been around for decades and could attract players because of their history and location.
Even when other teams won championships and sustained success–the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs–those organizations still couldn’t attract the big names that the Power Four could.
Those teams don’t have it the easy the way LA, Boston, New York and Chicago do. Being able to attract the best talents in the NBA to play for them by saying “Hey we’re the Lakers, dammit!”
Then, in 1988, the Miami Heat came around. They had some success in the 90′s and had some terrific players like Rony Seikaly, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Glen Rice.
With Dwyane Wade in 2006, they became the first team since the 1999 Spurs to win its first NBA Finals.
Then, in 2010, something funny happened. Chris Bosh, and then LeBron James, left their teams to sign in Miami.
Did Miami just become a destination franchise?
No one was asking that question. It was believed that they just happened to be the right team at the right time.
And that’s true.
The three of them wanted to team up, and Pat Riley manufactured the cap space to make it happen. It really didn’t matter where they did it. Had the Cavaliers been able to clear the space, you don’t think Wade and Bosh would have flocked to Cleveland?
Of course they would have. The point was to play together, not to play in Miami.
Then, four years later, LeBron James left Miami to go back to Cleveland. Even after four-straight finals appearances–something that has only been done by destination franchises, the Celtics and Lakers–James left.
It was believed James would re-sign, and his departure came as a shock to the entire league. It was believed that James, along with Wade and Bosh, had made Miami into a destination franchise and that he would never leave. Not even for his home town.
That didn’t happen, and for a few hours it seemed as if Miami was going to slip back into mediocrity. Was going to Homer Simpson its way back into the salmon stream of non-destination NBA franchises.
Then Chris Bosh spurned a similar offer by the Houston Rockets to take a max deal in Miami.
Dwyane Wade didn’t entertain the notion to go back to his home town of Chicago and re-signed with the Heat.
Even without LeBron, Riley tied the knot on his summer-long flirtation with Luol Deng with a $10 million contract that he had been turning down from other teams for months.
Bosh told ESPN about his decision to stay in Miami, where he is helping to make the franchise a destination.
“[There were] very enticing offers,” Bosh said. “There was some surprising advances made in everything, but I ultimately decided to stay in Miami. I think it was the right choice. I benefit from it, the team will benefit from it, from here. My heart was in Miami. I wanted to be there and keep my family there and build relationships and really keep building on something special.”
On Monday, Owner Micky Arison released a letter to Heat fans. In it, he talked about the success of the franchise.
So while the names on the back of the jersey may change from time to time, the constant presence of the name “Miami” or “HEAT” on the front guarantees that our goal remains the same: to put a competitive team on the floor capable of competing for the ultimate prize. As a Miami Heat fan, this is what you have come to expect from us.
What Arison describes is a destination franchise.
Miami has risen to that. The Heat only missed the playoffs three times since Riley and Arison teamed up in 1995.
It doesn’t need James to attract quality free agents. I don’t want to hear the arguments that James Jones and Ray Allen left Miami once James decided to go to Cleveland. The Heat went in a different direction, too.
When Wade and Bosh leave the NBA, Miami will remain a destination. It’s continued success has given it a reputation. Players know that as long as they play for the Heat, they will compete.
That’s what attracts player to LA, Boston, Chicago and New York. Sure, those teams have their down years, but they always bounce back. Miami will, too, have a bad season one of these years; but they will bounce back.
And that’s a place where players want to play.