For the Non-Basketball (or at least Non-NBA) fans out there, you may not know that the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are currently in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs against one and other. In the 82 game regular season the Chicago Bulls finished with the best record, winning 62 games and securing the #1 overall seed for the playoffs. Miami finished just a few games back at 58-24, and entered the playoffs as the #3 seed. Despite these truths, the Miami Heat are looked at by many as the favorites. It’s not often that the team that won the regular season is looked at as an underdog in a series, but here we are.
Chicago built a team largely through the draft, selecting players like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and drafting Derrick Rose #1 overall a couple of years back. Then added a slew of Ex-Utah Jazz players like Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and finally Carlos Boozer, adding the piece they needed down low.
They were quietly dominant this season, winning at a pace not seen in Chicago since Jordan left town.
Miami on the other hand was anything but quiet. Their off-season marked maybe the single biggest shakeup via Free Agency in NBA history. First re-signing Dwayne Wade, and then adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They weren’t done there though. They went on to also acquire Mike Miller, Eric Dampier, Mike Bibby, Juwan Howard, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Before playing a single game they exhibited extreme arrogance previously unseen, even in the NBA.
Now, I grew up in Detroit, so I’m a Pistons fan. That means I grew up hating the Bulls. But it’s surprising even to me, how easy it now is to root for Chicago as if it were my own team. That is how much I despise the Miami Heat. And that all comes back to ‘The King’. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I was a Chris Bosh fan before this season. And I almost sorta liked Wade too, you know, until the wheelchair thing…
However, LeBron James has now tainted the entire team for me. A lot of people don’t understand my disdain for him, but to me it’s so obvious it’s insulting. LeBron and the Heat has ruined the NBA, but before I get into that, let’s look at LeBron’s rise first…
While still in High School he is annotated ‘the next one’ and gives himself the nickname ‘The King’. Before he’s done anything. He is then so concerned with his image, that while already an established NBA Superstar, at a camp he’s hosting, he get dunked on and conviskates the tape. Really LeBron? Instead of congratulating the kid on a nice play and laughing it off, he and his handlers at Nike try to squash the thing. What’s gonna happen if it gets out? Are you not any good anymore? Grow up…
So anyway, he’s awesome. No doubt, but Cleveland can’t seem to get it done. And instead of taking his game to the next level – like MJ did vs the Bad Boys and the Celtics, he blames his team. This breeds ignorance for years to come as ‘LeBron Supporters’ will tell you that “Cleveland didn’t do enough for him”, which is of course total poppycock.
People seem to forget, in addition to paying him ridiculous amounts of money, they basically let him run the team. Brought in the guys he wanted, and he still couldn’t get it done. It was his job to win, and he could not do it. People talk about the lack of talent around him with the Cavs – How about Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who despite injuries early in his career, went on to multiple All-Star games, and became the team’s clutch shooter and free throw specialist, over James. The team around him ‘sucked’ so bad apparently that they were able to secure the best record in the NBA his last season, and were marching towards the Finals until James quit on the team against Boston. So he chokes in the playoffs, again, and his fans blame the organization. I’m sorry, I thought they paid him to win the games, I thought that was his job.
So LeBron now Free Agency hits and ‘The King’ decides to leave his home state of Ohio. A state that loves him, and one that hasn’t had a Pro Championship since Jim Brown retired in the 60s. An entire state whose dreams rest on his shoulders, and to whom he promised a title. But does he leave this people who love him with a modicum of class or dignity? No. He instead holds an hour-long ESPN special called “The Decision”. This is where he’ll announce where he’s going. Keep in mind he has not told Dan Gilbert (Owner of the Cavs) his plans, and it is now late into the Free Agency period and Cleveland has been thus far unable to make a movie waiting to hear from James. So what is his decision: “I’m taking my talents to South beach”. Could you slap the fans of the Cavs in the face harder? Not only have you left your hometown team in the lurch, but you made a national spectacle out of it. One the fans did not appreciate…
So now here he is in Miami, a team that epitomizes a loser mentality. No wonder Jordan has time and again proclaimed that Kobe is better than LeBron. Can you see Jordan, or Isiah Thomas joining forces to try to win? How about Magic and Bird going to Houston to play with Hakeem? Never would have happened, because those guys were competitors. They wanted to prove they were the best, by beating the best. And the sad part, the NBA was much tougher then too. So not only are LeBron and Bosh and Wade weak for needing each other, they are doing it against a much lower level of competition. Today’s NBA is watered down and about to get worse.
As a result of this so-called “Super Team” in Miami, the ripples have already been felt through-out the rest of the league. Carmelo Anthony forced a trade to New York to play with Amare Stoudemire, and Chris Paul has already talked of joining them next year. This is going to give cities like Miami, LA, and New York unfair advantages, and the smaller cities, who will now lose their stars to these Super Team will struggle just to stay a float. Utah already had to ship their best player to New Jersey in Deron Williams because they knew they wouldn’t be able to resign him. That’s right, a perennial playoff contender: The Jazz, lost their star to a terrible Nets team because of their proximity to New York.
All the while, the only remaining Mid-West Team is Chicago, who is winning without a bunch of household names, and is led by a humble super-star in Derrick Rose.
Miami on the other hand represents the chance for a title totally bought and paid for. Style over substance with a swagger totally unearned. Now maybe I’m bias because I saw one of the least flashy Detroit teams ever, whoop the snot out of a Hall of Fame rostered Lakers team in 2004 to win the championship.
But even my undying hate for Scottie Pippen isn’t enough to make me root against the Bulls tonight.
So I ask you: If you are a fan of the NBA, how can you root for Miami tonight?