The Miami Heat took down the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night in Game Five of the NBA Finals. After losing the opener of the best-of-seven series, the Heat rattled off four straight wins, en route to the franchise’s second title.
The morning after, opinions remain split. Long-time Miami residents and diehard Heat fans are elated. Critics have been silenced and the Pat Riley masterplan achieved the ultimate level of success year two, after face-planting a year ago this time.
LeBron James has finally been vindicated. After playing the role of villain everywhere in the nation, north of West Palm Beach, even the his biggest critics have to give the regular season and NBA Finals MVP some serious love this morning. James was dominant this post season and showed that he could indeed be clutch when the moment again presented itself.
As idiotic at “The Decision” was two years ago and as immature as James came across at times, year one in a Miami uniform, all off that was erased this postseason. No. 6 hopped off of Twitter, dialed fully into his mission to bring home a title and achieved his life’s goal last night.
Some evidence of growth? The same guy who prematurely celebrated in Game Two of last year’s series against Dallas was the first to shut down point guard Mario Chalmers for playing to the crowd late in the fourth quarter of Game Five this year, up double-digits against Oklahoma City, with the title all but in the bag.
James was also seen throughout the evening, doing a towel-wringing motion, encouraging teammates to keep grinding down the stretch.
Those who want to continue viewing LBJ as everything wrong with the NBA, and professional sports, for that matter, go right ahead. If this post-season didn’t change your opinion, this article certainly won’t make a dent.
That said, if you’re one of those people and a fan of the University of Miami that wants to see your Hurricanes resume their winning ways, you should be the first in line thanking James for bringing his talents to South Beach and delivering the title he promised.
I put this sentiment out there a few times during the playoffs and the anti-Heat folk were immediately up in arms, reminding us this is a Canes site, not a forum to root for other Miami franchises. They let it be known that a lot of Canes fans aren’t from South Florida and don’t pull for local teams – but to that point, a quick reminder that at allCanes, we are.
allCanes was incorporated in 1959. We’ve had the same Miami-bred owners since 1974 and the same homegrown general manager since 1991.
Our staff is mostly made up of locals, we’re a stone’s throw from the University of Miami’s campus and the majority of customers we deal with in a daily basis are all about ‘The U’ as well as being all about South Florida sports franchises.
As Canes fans, when we’re not rooting for our university or our local sports teams, do we not root for adopted teams that feature kids who played for UM? When former head coach Jimmy Johnson was at Dallas, with a handful of former Canes players and coaches, did we not dub them the “Miami Cowboys”?
Whenever Super Bowl talk kicks up the beginning of ever year, Hurricane fans seemingly pull for NFL franchises chock full of UM players.
This year the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots for the title in February and folks were bummed that Vince Wilfork didn’t get a ring, but celebrated the fact that Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips did.
When the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last fall, UM folks were happy that one of our own, Jon Jay, finally got his.
As a fan of the University of Miami, you root for things that put this program in a good light or make the program better – and the Heat bringing a world championship back to South Florida do just that. Maybe not directly, but indirectly, and a town that hasn’t won much as of late needs all the help it can get.
Winning is infectious. The culture of losing? A disease. Miami as a sports city has had sporadic success over the past few decades.
The Hurricanes fell off the map football-wise between 1992 and 2000, making for a decade where a Marlins championship (1997) and a Panthers Stanley Cup final (1996) were all the city had to hang its hat on.
The Dolphins were a perennial 9-7, early playoff exit franchise while the Heat, in the Tim Hardaway / Alonzo Mourning era, were unable to dethrone the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, while annually finding ways to struggle with the New York Knicks.
At the turn of the millennium, Miami football got theirs in 2001, played for it in 2002 and reached four straight BCS games while Hurricanes Baseball reeled in the 2001, two years after winning it all in 1999.
In 2003, the Marlins got another, beating the New York Yankees but since then, it was a 2006 Heat title that as a long bright spot during what otherwise could be considered a nine-year drought.
As fans, how much losing can a city take before it starts to check out? Especially a city like Miami, full of transplants and with a playground not dependent on sports franchises? Oklahoma City has gas stations, fast food and strip malls. Same can be said for college towns like Gainesville, Columbus or Tuscaloosa, which is why fans live and die with their teams through thick and thin.
In Miami, continue losing and your sports community gets lost in other hobbies. South Beach. Coconut Grove. The Keys. Boating. Fishing. Outdoors activities. People watching. You name it, there are countless other things to do when teams lose in South Florida – but win, and you have the entire city’s attention again.
To some that sparks a debate about front running or a bandwagon mentality, but in all reality it’s simply prioritizing. Miami as a city has options and you have to succeed if you want to earn the spotlight.
To the anti-Heat sports community, they’ll never get past the premise of The Big Three uniting in effort to win the big one. The focus has centered on egos, as well as superstars needing each other, in some form of an unfair advantage, as opposed to one or two big names and a slew of gritty role players getting the job done.
Sadly, that biased mindset keeps them from seeing a great sports story that’s unfolded.
Miami hooted and hollered when The Big Three game together. As if James’ decision was, a coming out party reminiscent of a Motley Crue concert unfolded when he was introduced with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh days later. As if lights, lasers, smoke and adoring fans weren’t enough, there was also the prediction of over a half dozen championships being the goal.
Fast forward to last June and The Big Three again started partying prematurely, treating a Game Two lead as if it were the waning moments of Game Four, up 3-0 in the series.
Dallas stole Game Two, Miami took Game Three and the Mavs won three straight, leaving the Heat shell-shocked, embarrassed … and thankfully, hungry going into this season.
As year one of this era of Miami Heat basketball unfolded, the local in me wanted immediate gratification, but as the Dallas series wound down and the Mavs rolled in games five and six, it was hard to not acknowledge the greater good.
It was better in the long run that Miami didn’t get theirs right away as this team came back focused, humble, mature and driven. Pretty much the same way Oklahoma City will get back after it in 2013.
The Big Three truly put egos aside, shut their mouths and let their respective games do the talking. Futhermore, they were truly the first Miami franchise in forever that truly had the nation against them, forcing that “us against the world” mentality that gave UM supporters a sense of pride, while propelling the Hurricanes to a handful of championships.
Even James, who’d lived on Twitter and was baited into lame arguments over the past few years, stayed away from social networking the minute the playoffs began and didn’t show back up online until the wee hours of the night, the bubbly popped, the trophy secured and the party underway, with a simple message; “I love you guys. This was for you.”
A few hours later, “OMFG I think it just hit me. I’m a CHAMPION!! I AM a CHAMPION!!”
Somewhere you have to believe Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden is already using his masters in sports psychology when figuring out a way to tie this Heat run with his goals for his program as the storylines run deep.
Besides the obvious ones mentioned above, there’s also Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who joined the organization in 1997 as the team’s video coordinator in his mid-twenties, worked his way up and just under two decades later earned his first ring as a head coach.
If that isn’t a lesson in putting in time, working hard, perseverance and paying dues, then what is?
When you look at a Hurricanes team chock so full of South Florida talent and homegrown Miami kids, you know without a doubt that they look up to and want to emulate what these Heat players have accomplished.
James and Wade are two of the biggest names in sports and these new Hurricanes – guys like Tracy Howard, Deon Bush or Randy ‘Duke’ Johnson – were in grade school when both entered the NBA.
Seeing your heroes put in the hard work and succeeding at the ultimate level – it’s inspirational and you can guarantee that those Canes watched last night’s win and trophy presentation, dreaming of being in a similar moment in their careers at UM.
As a fan of the Canes, you cannot see the City of Miami come alive as it did last night without getting goosebumps. This championship was good for the city and especially those kids who will suit up for ‘The U’ this fall, as well as the baseball and basketball Canes next spring.
Coach Riley’s fave Bruce Springsteen made it clear that you can’t start a fire without a spark, and this championship is primed to bring some electricity back to a city that’s been dark way too long.
Congrats to the Miami Heat and to the Miami Hurricanes, now it’s your turn. Follow the Heat’s lead, put in the work, start building a winner and you’ll get your day in the sun. – C.B.