The best overall NBA team this season won their second championship in grand fashion last week as they took out the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. Anchored by the best player in the game today and aided by a little bit of luck, the Miami Heat were able to overcome inconsistent play from several role players to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
I had the pleasure of meeting LeBron James along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh during the 2004 All Star Weekend. It did not take long to see at that time that they were going to be special, not only because of their enormous talents but it was the way they carried themselves. You could tell for some reason, even back then, that they were going to change the game in one way or the other. And boy, have they.
Little did we know that six years later they would agree to get together, bucking the system to join forces. The result yielded three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, where they won the last two. Now it wasn’t easy despite having three of the best seven players in their locker room.
At first they struggled to find their roles. Each of them were used to being “The Man” in the previous situations. Coach Erik Spoelstra has done a magnificent job defining each player’s role, while getting them to understand that they would have to make sacrifices to their individual games in order for this thing to work. This included getting Wade to take a back seat to James and Bosh to give up his post game in order to open the driving lanes for Wade and James. Once their roles were defined, the team has been rolling, including two championships and a 27-game winning streak.
The Heat have also been going against the perception that most fans, NBA executives and players alike did not like that fact that they got together and decided that they were going to circumvent the system to become teammates. They took less money and realized that their individual stats would suffer, but in the bigger scheme of things, their legacies would be enhanced. You would think most folks would consider it admirable for players to take less money in order for them to win. Personally, I think most people didn’t like the fact that these three inner-city kids cut out the middleman, NBA general managers, and controlled their own destinies. I think it paid off.
There is no doubt that James is the best player lacing up sneakers today. This series proved it. He did not listen to the so-called experts who claimed that he had to score 30-40 points in order for his team to win. He still looked for his teammates despite their inconsistent play. In some games you had to put out a search squad for Ray Allen, then the former Celtic drains a three to send Game 6 into overtime. Spoelstra did not have confidence in Shane Battier in the Eastern Conference Finals Game 7, and then Battier becomes the hero in game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Getting his teammates involved has been a big part of James’ game since he picked up a basketball. That has allowed him to get those one-on-one schemes that allow him to virtually go off as a scorer. I am glad that James has stuck to guns.
The Spurs have been a model of consistency since Tim Duncan arrived, and if his teammates would have sank one or two foul shots in Game 6, he might be sporting his fifth ring. However, the Heat were the better team and it played out that way in the end.