Now-likable Heat will face stiffer test
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
A couple of funny things happened on the way to the Miami Heat winning a second title in three years: one of the most hated teams in the history of sports became quite likable because of what it went through, and it became clear that the parity around the league which a superteam was supposed to threaten is alive and well.
The widespread jealousy and disdain that surrounded the Heat in the summer of 2010 was pre-emptive, based on the assumption that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — at the calculated behest of team President Pat Riley — had stacked the deck by teaming up. But the Heat’s latest championship was something very different than what we all expected, and the rockiness of their road to another Larry O’Brien Trophy bodes well for a league that has no shortage of comers to threaten their spot in the throne.
Miami’s playoff path was never the clear runway they once expected it to be, with the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers offering increasing levels of resistance and the timeless San Antonio Spurs nearly willing their way to a fifth championship during the unpredictable and thrilling series. The refreshing part was that it wasn’t easy for Miami. It was earned, and — especially after the 2011 Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks that started the Heat’s humbling process — appreciated by those who earned it.
The arrogance and sense of entitlement this group was once known for was nowhere to be found inside American Airlines Arena on Thursday. The Heat, who will never live down that July 2010 day where they celebrated prematurely in front of their fans and James talked of winning “not one, not two” but eight titles by the time they were done, knew these Finals could have ended differently.
Whether it was the bounce of the ball on the Heat offensive rebound that led to Ray Allen’s miracle shot in Game 6 or the missed free throws by Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard moments before or the surreal Game 7 sight of Tim Duncan blowing that shot in … [For more on Now-likable Miami Heat will face stiffer test in 2014, click here.]