Last night I was watching the final minutes of Game 4. The Heat had just wrestled control of the game back into their hands, LeBron was fake-limping his way into the annals of NBA lore, and the young Thunder were shrinking under the lights. Russell Westbrook had carried the Thunder on this night to the tune of 43 points, but no one will remember. No one will remember what Westbrook or Durrant do in these Finals because these Finals aren’t about the Thunder. Just like the last two seasons in the NBA, these finals are all about the Miami Heat, and last night they had their moment.
I remember it vividly; both teams came walking onto the court from a timeout, the Thunder clenched their jaws and looked up at the scoreboard noticably shaken, unsure of how to proceed. The Heat stood tall together, everyone knowing where to go, knowing their roles. It was that moment, as the Heat’s three stars formed a circle in their paint that something became clear. LeBron wacked Chris Bosh on the chest, Bosh shouted to his mates “Get a fuckin’ stop!”, and Wade looked off in the distance towards that elusive championship. The three most scrutinized players in the game today stood together, ready for whatever may come their way; and only one thought came to mind:
These guy’s are really going to do this…
Turning the clock back almost three years brings us to LeBron’s ill-advised Decision. Since then these three players have been dealing with unprecedented pressure to win, and win now. On top of that each player has had to deal with attacks on their character and substance, just because of the way they all came together in Miami. Bosh was Toronto’s star player, he could’ve resigned there and tried to make something of himself and the franchise that drafted and developed him. Instead he took his talents to South Beach. Wade, already the King of South Beach, brought these guys in to win titles and to do that he’s had to take a step back and hand his team over to LeBron, which has proven to be a not-so-easy task. Then there’s LeBron who had his pick of destinations when he fled Cleveland, only to pair up with his friend in Miami. Since he uttered the words “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” he’s had a target on his back, something only a championship can remedy.
This is not the way it’s supposed to work. The NBA has long since been about team building through the draft, sound front office decision making and a little luck. When Pat Riley put this team together three years ago it was the first time three players of this caliber decided to join forces via free agency; it was the first time in league history where the players, not the NBA, held all of the power.
As the camera zoomed in and James, Wade, and Bosh prepared for the most important defensive possession of their careers it was clear how wrong we’ve all been. Saying these guys took the easy way out couldn’t be further from the truth. Saying that they went to Miami to play with their friends and not have to deal with pressure is absurd. The pressure’s they’ve dealt with have never been matched before. Sure, Jordan won six titles with each successive title adding more and more pressure onto his shoulders, but he never had to deal with today’s modern media, or the level of talent the NBA has today. Miami’s Big 3 are sick and tired of not living up to expectations, they’re ready to become the team of destiny we all expected them to be from day one. For James and Bosh they need this first title to justify their coming to Miami, for Wade he needs a second title to excuse his willingness to become second-fiddle.
Two Finals appearances in two seasons. Had the Heat beaten the Mavericks last summer there wouldn’t be talk of James being overrated or Wade being washed up, there’d be talk of a dynasty. Now that they’re within one win of their first title together there’s a sense of comfort coming from these Heat, a sense of it being their time. They may have bucked the system when they decided to form the most hated team in the history of professional sports, but winning a title under this much scrutiny will be historic.
These guy’s are really going to do this, maybe it’s time we stand in awe.