It’s staggering to think about how close the Miami Heat were from emotions so different from the joy, relief and, bravado that accompanied a Game 7 victory over the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the NBA championship.
One Ray Allen missed shot.
One Kawhi Leonard made free throw.
One San Antonio defensive rebound.
Any one of a litany of the smallest events could have taken place — a ball bouncing slightly different than it did — and everything changes. Everything would have been so incredibly different for the Heat. Instead of the praise, dynasty talk, and debate over whether or not LeBron James might end up as the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball, the vultures would have descended.
The columns were already written as the Heat seemed certain to blow Game 6, down 5 with 28 seconds left. No one was writing about James’ all-time potential. They were crushing him as a choker and reminding everyone that Michael Jordan never would have turned the ball over twice in such a crucial situation. No one was calling Wade one of the most unselfish players to ever play the game. They were burying him as old and washed up.
The vitriol and venom waiting for Miami was so powerful that even after repeating as NBA Champions — before the Heat only five teams had ever done this — some are still wondering whether Miami should trade Chris Bosh. If this is the conversation after the Heat repeated as champions, can you imagine what it would have been like had they lost?
As we all know, though, the Heat didn’t lose. For any team to win an NBA championship (yes, even Jordan’s Bulls), a certain amount of luck is involved. As we saw this season, an injury to a key player can crush a team’s chances of doing so. A shot that a player makes 99 times out of 100 might rim out at the worst possible time. These things happen and Miami was largely on the favorable side of most of these events this season.
This isn’t to take anything away from the Heat, either. Miami was the best team all season and made the plays down the stretch that San Antonio didn’t. They have the best player in the world in James and in the NBA it’s rare that the best player on the best team doesn’t win in the Finals.
Rather, the take away is how incredibly small the difference was between these two now legendary teams. How small the difference was from the Miami blueprint becoming a resounding success instead of what those without perspective (and there are so many of them) would deem a failure. How small the difference was from the criticism rising up like a tidal wave and crushing James, Wade, and Bosh to the Heat’s Big Three having likely silenced it for good.
As Miami heads into the offseason, new storylines will emerge and that difference will slowly be forgotten. The Heat have some key free agents, including Allen, Mario Chalmers, and Chris Andersen that may or may not return. Miami might also look to add some bulk in the form of Greg Oden to deal with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and Chicago’s Joakim Noah. Wade will need to get healthy and James has already discussed how every Heat player needs to improve some aspect of their game. People will forever try to trade Bosh.
Once the Heat begin the 2013-2014 season and attempt to accomplish the elusive three-peat and achieve permanent dynasty status, the difference will be further pushed into history. History won’t remember how close everything was to falling apart around the Heat, only that they accomplished something few franchises have done.
What a difference a few years will make.
Previously from Charlie Crespo:
♦ Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon Walk: A Dream That Should Have Been Deferred
♦ Viral Video of the Day: LeBron James Keeps His Head
♦ Beertopia: Blue Point Brewing Company’s Hoptical Illusion
♦ Taiwan Says Goodbye to Manny Ramirez
♦ Forget About Ever Winning an Air Hockey Game Again