Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks led by the German shot-making machine, Dirk Nowitzki, won the 2010-11 NBA title, but that storyline has always been secondary to the rise and fall of what has evolved into the most scrutinized, celebrated and vilified North American professional sports team – the Miami Heat.
After enjoying its most successful season in recent memory, the NBA will most likely head into a summer lockout imposed by the August and dictatorial Derr Kommissar David Stern. Ratings were up, interest in the league was high, the NBA Finals was manna from heaven for sports radio and the blogosphere, and all of this can be attributed to one 25-year-old athlete declaring in the summer of 2010, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”
That one sentence uttered by LeBron James has been seared into our collective sports conscious. LeBron’s line, which had to be viewed as an innocuous statement by Maverick Carter’s marketing mafia, has risen to the level of:
“Practice?” – Allen Iverson
“Playoffs?” – Jim Mora
LeBron James’ nine words immediately galvanized nearly an entire nation to despise Miami’s Big Three. Fans were offended that a 25-year-old multimillionaire would dare to leave the cultural paradise of northeast Ohio, for a city, where supermodels are as common as a December snowflake off of Lake Erie.
Miami Heat President Pat Riley was the mastermind of this nefarious scheme to take over the world of professional basketball. This is the same Riles that has shown a disdain for international scouting and a reluctance to view the NBA Draft as a source of emerging talent. Riles has always viewed the NBA mega star as the salvation of a franchise – and LeBron James was the Holy Grail of NBA free agents. A 25-year-old with the build of Karl Malone, the speed of Michael Cooper, point guard quickness, NBA Finals experience – and his good friend was Dwayne Wade.
After Riley and his street agent Dwayne Wade successfully recruited Chris Bosh, LeBron James was primed to leave Dan Gilbert’s Cleveland Cavaliers for Micky Arison’s Miami Heat. And then we all watched “The Decision” – the most ineffective and abrasive marketing scheme since Coke attempted to foist New Coke on America’s caffeine addicts – and most of us experienced heavy hearts for Cleveland’s long-suffering sports fans and unveiled contempt for Miami’s apathetic and contemptibly front-running contingent.
Riles had accomplished the impossible. Or was it really Dwayne Wade and Worldwide Wes that had choreographed the most headline-grabbing summer in NBA history?
Overnight the Miami Heat had morphed into the NBA’s most-hated team. How could LeBron James leave Cleveland? How dare LeBron James attempt to win a NBA championship by uniting with two of the game’s elite players?
LeBron James became the target and focal point of our anti-Heat mania. He had corrupted the game, gamed free agency, and was tarnishing a league that still heard media types make Tim Donaghy accusations.
As fans, we gave Riles a pass. We viewed Chris Bosh as a throw-in. Dwayne Wade was innocent of wrong-doing. But LeBron James was guilty.
Guilty of what? We weren’t quite sure, because as sports fans we have decided an athlete shouldn’t be able to decide his future unless that athlete wants to join our team, and wouldn’t it be better for sports to return to a pre-Curt Flood era where athletes stayed with one team for perpetuity and only a team could move an athlete?
LeBron James asserted a right that most Americans cherish. The right to work and live where we want to – but LeBron James was different. This is about sports. The world of sports is where human beings should accept less than market value for their services – and we refer to that as a “hometown discount.” LeBron James did take less money to play with the Heat, but we viewed that as an abomination. The Miami Heat was anti-American and Lebron James was an Obama socialist accepting less money to play in South Beach. Our society was unraveling and James was the catalyst for an American Empire in decline.
Miami Heat President Pat Riley – Riles walked away from the scene of the crime with nary an accusation thrown at him. Once again, Pat Riley has shown he is the Teflon Don of the NBA. We can now all plainly see that Erik Spoelstra is no Pat Riley, and Riles would have used his years of coaching experience to successfully lead the Heat to a title. (Unless Riles knows a really good sports psychologist for LeBron James, that was never going to happen.)
Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra – Erik Spoelstra may need months to recover from what had to be one of the toughest coaching jobs in recent memory. Spoelstra was assigned the task of coaching D Wade, King James and C Bosh. How receptive do you think these three are to coaching?
I believe it was the Eastern Conference Finals, versus the Chicago Bulls, where LeBron was asked about the effectiveness of Miami’s zone defense that ignited a Heat run. King James refused to acknowledge the strength of Spoelstra’s coaching move, and said he thought the team simply played with more energy and passion. Spoelstra should have thanked King James for the bitch slap. How dare anyone believe that coaching could help Miami’s fabled Big Three?
Spoelstra was given the most talented team in the NBA, but he was also given a team susceptible to crying jags, a player who would shoulder bump the coach, a squad that complained about its early season minutes, a dynamic duo that could manufacture a cough into an insulting viral video, and Spoelstra battled all of this with the specter of Pat Riley standing in the wings, poised to pull another Stan Van Gundy coaching execution..
Critics will offer that Spoelstra was outcoached by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. It’s difficult to be out coached when no one is sure how receptive any of Miami’s Big Three were to Spoelstra’s coaching. In Game 7, ABC’s cameras recorded Spoelstra imploring his team to play with, “mental stability.” Clearly, LeBron James wasn’t receiving that message.
The NBA is a player’s league, and Miami’s Big Three failed its coach.
Chris Bosh – Chris Bosh got the job done in the playoffs. Bosh may be the one person who is immune from blame. He can take home a smiley face and proudly display it on his refrigerator for the summer.
Dwyane Wade – From most members of the media, and fans, Dwyane Wade has received a pass. Wade played hard in the NBA Finals, was clearly the best player for the Heat versus the Mavericks, and people realized that D Wade was the leader of this team.
If D Wade is the leader of this team – and it appears he is – Wade has to be held responsible for the play of LeBron James in the NBA Finals. At the end of Game 3, Wade attempted to light a fire under his running mate, but LeBron couldn’t get out of his own way.
The leader – and it wasn’t Erik Spoelstra, has to be figure out a way to get his franchise player back in the game. Wade recruited the guy to South Beach, developed a strong friendship with The King, and he needed to find a way to buck up his fragile friend’s psyche.
Being a leader, D Wade never should have been so immature as to drag LeBron into Coughgate. A leader has to avoid those situations. At that, point in the Finals, no one on the Heat needed to operate under any more pressure, or media scrutiny and Wade has to understand that.
Wade played hard, but the defeat of the Heat should be placed equally on the shoulders of both himself and LeBron.
LeBron James – We want LeBron James to be the next Michael Jordan, but he is a much different person than MJ. MJ was brought up in a two-parent home, he was one of five children to Deloris and James Jordan, and he wasn’t anointed a basketball god pre-high school. People want to correctly point out that Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals, but he didn’t play in and win an NBA Finals until he was 27. LeBron is 26.
Buzz Bissinger’s “Shooting Stars” details ”The Wire”/ Dickensian childhood experienced by LeBron James in Akron with his mother, Gloria James. Gloria James was evicted or simply lost numerous apartments, LeBron went to live with friends’ families, his father was never a part of his life, and this is a childhood that produced one of the world’s greatest athletes. It’s amazing that LeBron is where he is at the age of 26 (After making a lot of loot off of LeBron, Bissinger has displayed utter contempt for James through his Twitter feed).
It’s been documented that Gloria James has issues with substance abuse and alcohol. She also has a Delonte West problem, but let’s save that for another time. LeBron James is probably the adult in this relationship with his mother, takes care of Gloria, and should be applauded for that.
But we all are products of our upbringing. If anyone has noticed, and I’m sure you have, LeBron disappears when things get tight or frenetic on the court. He isn’t comfortable when things become alien to him or he starts shooting jumpers like Ben Wallace. The reaction is fight or flight – and LeBron has the tendency to flee. Based on his childhood, wouldn’t you want to get away from Gloria James’ dysfunctional world?
When D Wade started whispering in LeBron’s ears about establishing an NBA colossus in Miami, LeBron had to be open to his older friend’s powers of seduction. LeBron could relate to D Wade. D Wade could have been LeBron’s older brother, and he could trust Wade.
There isn’t much in LeBron’s background to suggest he should trust adults. King James has surrounded himself with a coterie of advisors, the Maverick Carter mafia, who are his peers. LeBron never looked for MJ’s David Falk to shepherd his career – he has seemingly only trusted his boys from Akron and Worldwide Wes.
LeBron James may be the most unique elite athlete to garner the world’s attention, because the story of his success is so improbable. We can all revel in his demise versus the Mavericks, because of the ham-handed and tone-deaf execution of “The Decision”, but there is more to admire about this guy than insult.
Dallas Mavericks – Sadly, this will become the NBA Finals that LeBron and the Heat lost – and not the culmination of Mark Cuban’s odyssey to win a championship.
At the end of Game 3, where Miami’s Chris Bosh nailed the game-winner, Rick Carlisle noticed that the team was playing better with J.J. Barea on the court. After Game 3, Carlisle made the decision to move Barea into the starting lineup, have the world champion public urinater DeShawn Stephenson come off the bench, and Barea then tore it up against the Heat.
The Painted Area’s “On Jason Kidd and ‘Win Time’, and the Greatest Clutch Lineup on Earth” argues that the Mavericks are one of the most forward-thinking teams when it comes to the use of metrics, and that Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff is advised of the best five to use versus the various lineups presented by opposing teams. The Dallas analytics unit travels with the team.
The Painted Area writes:
Also, note that another thing Cuban said at the Sloan Conference was that he thought that one of the biggest edges for him was in understanding 5-man lineup performance. Considering that Beech is the creator of 82Games.com, which is where those clutch +/- stats are from, and that he works directly with the Dallas coaching staff, I’m sure the organization is well aware of these numbers.
Have Mark Cuban and Roland Beech found something here? Have they discovered the ultimate clutch lineup? I included the total minutes as a reminder that these are ridiculously small sample sizes. Note that these same metrics show LeBron James to be a premier clutch performer over the last several seasons, which has not translated to clutch play in these Finals, after he was very clutch vs. Boston and Chicago. Please also note the irony that these same clutch Mavs were victims of one of the greatest playoff comebacks ever, in the Easter Saturday resurrection of Brandon Roy in the first round.
The J.J. Barea move was probably as much about metrics as it was about feel or a gut instinct. To combat the Heat colossus, Mark Cuban’s Mavericks had to utilize every arrow in the quiver and Roland Beech’s analysis may have been a difference-maker. The Heat seem to rely far less on statistical analysis, but do rely heavily on the ability of LeBron and D Wade to knock down outside shots.
Could this be the first NBA Finals where the most talented team in the league was defeated by a guy with a pocket protector?
Miami Heat – Roundball pundits are pointing to Miami’s defeat, and they suggest the Heat need to add a veteran point guard and a low post scorer.
Does anyone watch the games?
Mario Chalmers can be a little erratic, but the third-year pro showed tremendous heart and a willingness to take big shots. The Heat need to allow Chalmers to develop, which probably makes Pat Riley umcomfortable, but Chalmers can play.
Miami needs a low post scorer: Let me introduce you to Chris Bosh and LeBron James. The NBA isn’t Target, where a team can walk down the aisle and pick up a low post scorer or point guard, before they hit the check-out line.
The 2010-11 edition of the Miami Heat had enough talent to win. Sometimes the blame has to fall on the players. If Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t make two game-winning drives, Miami sweeps the series. To win a ring, every possession is crucial. The Dallas Mavericks seemed to appreciate that fact better than the Miami Heat.
Let’s get this lockout over, because I can’t wait to start rooting against the Heat again.