Miami Heat: Taking a look back at the franchise’s first NBA title

Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, left, talks with player Dwyane Wade (Photo by Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, left, talks with player Dwyane Wade (Photo by Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat won their first title way back in 2006. It seems so long ago, but with the recent lack of live NBA games, it’s worth a trip back in time.

At the end of the 2006 NBA season, the Miami Heat against the Dallas Mavericks presented an interesting finals matchup for a number of reasons. Both teams had never won an NBA Championship up until this point and in fact, neither organization had ever even made it to the NBA finals.

What the Miami Heat would go on to do is one of the most impactful things to ever happen to the franchise. Let’s get into it.

Well, it was that time of year where the NBA was ready to crown a new champion and a new face of the league in up and coming superstar, Dwyane Wade. I’ve rewatched the entire finals series and to say I forgot some things would be an understatement.

When I first watched the 2006 finals, I was somewhere between 9-11 years old. I remembered some things here and there, but taking the time to rewatch the series in its entirety was definitely worth the watch.

One of the key things I noticed throughout the series and when in comparison to today’s NBA, you would not have started Shaquille O’Neal and Udonis Haslem as the Miami Heat did in that series. In today’s NBA that simply would not provide or foster enough spacing and furthermore, the paint was probably a bit too packed for Shaq even then.

Looking back on it from today’s perspective of how most of us view the game, Miami may have been better suited to probably start James Posey at the four. Posey would have been a great version of a small-ball four in today’s game.

He was huge for the Miami Heat when it came to hitting clutch threes in that series. While Posey still found space to get his shot off, the lack of space as far as available driving lanes also makes what Wade did even more impressive when looking back on it all.

Miami was definitely physical with Dirk Nowitzki, as he was on the ground a lot due to UD and Posey’s hard-nosed defense, that into today’s NBA wouldn’t fly. Keep in mind that today’s NBA isn’t that physical, to begin with.

Miami made sure to send different looks at Nowitzki, such as double teams with O’Neal coming over. It also included a ton of different single coverages from Haslem and Posey. Shaq also wouldn’t hesitate to put Dirk on the floor as he attacked the basket either.

Watching the game, I definitely got the sense that by game four, Nowitzki was letting Miami’s defense get deep into his head at times. O’Neal didn’t have the best finals but he did help Miami get timely buckets, while his passing from the post which has always been an underrated element of his game, was extremely effective for the Miami Heat.

Again, while it was severely underrated at times, Shaq’s consistent ability to draw a ton of attention when near the basket and even late into his career, always provided optimal cutting and passing lanes.

I’ve always heard how Mavericks coach Avery Johnson did a bad job stopping Wade, having most of his focus on stopping O’Neal, sending double-teams anytime that Shaq touched the ball. Mind you, this was all while Wade was having arguably the best finals performance of all time.

Johnson didn’t consistently send double-teams at Wade until game four, while he was hardly consistent enough in doing that. Antoine Walker played a big part in Miami’s first championship as well.

The only issue from Walker is that he fell in love with the three-ball too much at times and it definitely showed during that NBA Finals series. Walker did find a way to do a lot of his damage in the paint though as it seemed nobody could stop him when he was attacking the rim, which led to a lot of timely buckets for the Miami Heat.

Another thing I noticed was that Gary Payton didn’t have eye-popping numbers during that series, although he came up clutch when Miami needed him. It was during Game 3 of the series where Payton hit a huge game-winning jumper and again in Game 5 where he hit a big layup for Miami to give them a one-point lead.

In the end though, Miami won their first championship in franchise history because Wade played at a Michael Jordan finals type of level for most of the series. Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.7 steals.

The Dallas Mavericks also couldn’t stop fouling him, with Wade shooting 97 free throws across the six games, including 25 in Game 5 alone. He practically lived at the free-throw line.

Next. The 15 Greatest Dwyane Wade moments of all time. dark

Some national media members always like to say stuff about how this particular NBA Finals was rigged. Some Mavericks fans will even try to tell you that it was too, but it wasn’t. What it did do though and mainly via the brilliance of Flash, was put him and his Miami Heat on the map officially, while putting the rest of the league on notice and letting them know Wade a superstar.