It was all good just four years ago. As a matter of fact, everything was great just four weeks ago. The Miami Heat were tied 1-1 and looking like they could be on their way to a third straight title in four consecutive NBA Finals tries.
This was clearly before the three straight blowouts that led to Tim Duncan hoisting another championship in San Antonio. But conventional thinking had each and every one of us convinced that Miami players would be ready to sacrifice, again, to retool for another run — especially after Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem joined LeBron James in the opt-out frenzy.
However something never felt right during the free agency process. As some would say, the tealeaves were all blowing in a Northeast Ohio direction.
There were the — maybe not so innocent — tweets from James’ wife Savannah, the mysterious South Florida appearance of Dan Gilbert’s private plane, the alleged billboards that Nike bought for a certain return and writer who put his reputation on the line to prove that Miami would be left looking at an empty No. 6 locker.
We all tried to brush the hints off, even if they were as obvious as Mike Miller posting a picture with an old wine and gold James jersey conveniently sitting in the background or “the Letter” suddenly disappearing from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ webpage for the first time in four years. It signaled that the hatred was actually over.
So now that James has made it official, we may now see him show the real smile — not the one he flashed in Miami, that looked like he had the state of Ohio on his shoulders. And this excerpt from his SI.com essay may go a long way in explaining why:
“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time….”
The crazy part is, the Heat are not likely to have that feeling again for a long time. Just think about it; the team was good enough to make it within three games of a three-peat, but they were so dependent on James that they couldn’t hold a fourth quarter, Game 1, lead when the King crumbled.
This is why I spent the better part of a year and a half calling the Heat the Miami Cavaliers.
James had to do too much. And that only gets worse if Chris Bosh indeed signs the Houston Rockets‘ offer sheet, because no one can expect Dwyane Wade to actually carry the team on his bad knees. Which means fans are in for more than retooling — similar to the process that they had to endure after the Alonzo Mourning–Tim Hardaway times and the Shaquille O’Neal championship years. And that will be the same as we watch the end of the Big Three era.
I mean people figured that James would eventually leave Miami, just not so soon. Like a cousin of mine said, the Chosen One is like Christian Bale’s Batman as he has gone from loved to hated to adored again. But South Beach shouldn’t harbor much anger. They stole him for four years and gained two titles. So they should thank him for the memories — and for the chance to reboot.