The Miami Heat – 2012 NBA Champions – That’s 1…


From the very beginning the the Miami Thrice experiment, there have been numerous criticisms directed at Pat Riley and the three all-star players he signed in the summer of 2010. The Decision was an abominable slap in the collective face of all Cleveland Cavaliers fans. The signing celebration in South Beach was an excessive act of hubris of the worst kind. Tying up all the team’s cap space on three players, two of whom had skill-sets to similar they might make each other redundant, was short-sighted. Teams built from a small number of stars with a “supporting cast” of limited role players have a mixed history at best. The team’s stars are all athletic runners and the complementary players are more slow-down veterans who execute best in half-court situations.

All of that is arguably true.

But there was another criticism leveled more specifically at LeBron than the other Heaters but inclusive of them all that I never agreed with and I think this Finals fully disproved. The accusation was that the Heat star players were taking the easy way out by getting together to try to build a dynasty. The thinking went that the team would be too good with so many stars capable of carrying the offense on any given night. If LeBron didn’t want to step up, he wouldn’t have to because Wade could dominate in his place, and vice versa, and any given game when the two of them might be off, they could feed the ball into Bosh and let him get big numbers for a win. We at Double Dribble never bought that argument. Did Pippen ever have a big game when Jordan’s shot wasn’t falling? Yes. Kareem and Worthy ever step up for Magic? Uh-huh. Kobe for Shaq? You bet! Pau for Kobe? Most definitely. McHale for LB? Yup. That’s the nature of team sports. Nobody wins anything alone. More to the point though, it was immediately clear that LeBron would not join the Heat and get to relax. He would need to play as well as he ever had in Cleveland for the the Heat to win a title. The 2nd and 3rd options are clearly much better for Bron’s Heat than they were for his Cavs, but LeBron is LeBron is LeBron. He doesn’t have a complementary players’ game. You can’t spot him up in the corner or ask him to play the screener in a pick and pop offense and expect to get a 30 PER season out of him. He has to be the focal point in order to give his best, and a team with no serviceable centers and no high level point guards was always going to need LeBron’s best.

The 2011 and 2012 Finals illustrated exactly what LeBron, Wade, and Bosh need to be in order for this team to be the dominant force that its detractors feared it would become. LeBron controls the ball and puts pressure on the defense with his driving and dishing, using his athleticism and vision to its fullest. Wade must be an active cutter and finisher and play hard-nosed defense all game, and he has to be opportunistic and aggressive in his scoring opportunities instead of settling for shooting standstill jumpers off kickouts from LeBron. Bosh needs to get inside and rebound at both ends, and he needs to be a strong screener who gets to the rim off the pick and roll and uses high double teams against Bron and Wade to get himself deep post position.

On the one hand that might be an indictment of James’s game. Essentially the scenario that played out over the last two Finals showed that LeBron needs to play like LeBron and other players need to adjust to playing with him. Unlike Jordan who was able to move off the ball and give Pippen and the triangle offense control over where the ball went, James isn’t the shooter, cutter, or post scorer to do that. On the other hand that’s also an indication that LeBron’s normal game with his excellent passing is so important to his team’s success that he can’t tone it down or take on a lesser role or the team will fail. It’s a chicken and egg question, but the end result is that a fully actualized LeBron James playing with total aggressiveness is the best weapon the game has to offer these days, and when the rest of the team performs complementary functions, his talent is championship caliber.

For anyone interested in legacies and timetables, LeBron just got his 1st ring in his 9th season, the latest any three time MVP won his first title. However, James is just 27 years old, the same age Jordan and Shaq were when they won their first titles, 3 years younger than Wilt was when he won his first title, and 3 years younger than Kobe was when he won his first Finals MVP (first without Shaq). LeBron’s PER for this playoff run is 30.2, the 3rd highest ever by a title winner behind only Jordan in 1991 and Shaq in 2000.

The Heat seem poised to make title runs the next two seasons with James, Bosh, and Wade signed through 2014 with options to hang on through 2015. By that time the three of them will still be younger than KG, Pierce, and Allen were this year and still in position to be a dominant club. The fact that all three of them can play multiple positions on offense and defense means that Pat Riley will enjoy considerable flexibility while retooling the team around them. A veteran defensive center with a jumpshot (think my main man KG wants to turn traitor and live in Miami for a season or two?) wouldn’t hurt. While the 7+ titles LeBron boasted of at the Heat’s premier party might be out of reach, a sustained run of excellence and genuine dynasty are still very much in play, and at this moment the All-Time ranking of LeBron James has no cap on it.

A quick note on the runner-up Thunder team: They’re a great squad and shouldn’t get undue criticism for this series. 3 of their 4 losses were very winnable games, and they got the raw end of a few big calls to boot. KD and Westbrook could both stand to move the ball a little bit more, and as a team they could be a touch more unselfish, but all-in-all they were a couple of breaks away from a title this year and should be right in the mix for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were in for an 80s Celtics / Lakers like streak of NBA Finals series from the Heat and the Thunder.


Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “The Miami Heat – 2012 NBA Champions – That’s 1…”

  1. pmadavi Says:

    Just for posterity, we predicted this in our Season Opening Podcast. Heat vs. Thunder, and Heat winning.

    Stick with the Kid, Baby!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: