The Miami Heat are coming off four-straight trips to the NBA Finals and two of the last three championships. With the sudden departure of LeBron James back home to Cleveland, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who believe they can sustain that success next season.
Although not exactly the same, the Chicago Bulls experienced a similar situation when Michael Jordan retired from the NBA soon after their title in 1993. With Jordan no longer around, the Bulls were expected to struggle mightily the following season.
The 1993-1994 Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls went on to post a 55-27 overall record – good for third best in the Eastern Conference. For comparison purposes it is important to point out the 1993-1994 Bulls were only two games better (57-25) and that was with Michael Jordan.
For years, Scottie Pippen was viewed as a very good (but not great) player in the NBA. He had spent his whole career as the wingman to Michael Jordan on the Bulls. In essence, Jordan was Batman, Pippen was Robin.
Pippen embraced the challenge of leading Chicago without Jordan as evidenced by his 1993-1994 production. He averaged career-highs in points per game (22.0), rebounds per game (8.7), and steals per game (2.9).
The Miami Heat finished with a 54-28 overall record last season. Although the team rested him throughout the season (28 games missed), Dwyane Wade had by far his most efficient season in his 11-year career, shooting almost 55 percent from the field.
With LeBron James no longer by his side, the majority of NBA fans, players, coaches, and “experts” are skeptical Wade can continue to produce at a high level. I would like to take a second to point out that Dwyane Wade was wearing an NBA Finals Championship ring years before James put on a Miami Heat jersey for the first time.
Dwyane Wade is now 32 years old and clearly not the player he once was. With that said, let’s not forget that he is a 3-time NBA Champion, an NBA Finals MVP, a 10-time NBA All-Star, and the leading scorer on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who won gold in Beijing.
Wade is one of the greatest players the league has ever seen – his résumé speaks for itself. Athletes like that don’t come around all too often so when they do, their talent, heart and motivation should never be questioned.
For Pippen, he wanted to prove that he was not carried by Michael Jordan and that he too had a hand in the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the early 1990s. For Wade, he now wants to remind everyone that he was a champion before LeBron James and has what it takes to be one after him as well.
One of my favorite things about being a sports fan is watching athletes when they play with a huge chip on their shoulder. Scottie Pippen played that way when Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1993 just like Dwyane Wade now will since James bailed on the Heat.
You may doubt Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat this upcoming season, but history tells us the great ones often rise to the occasion.