I'm not sure there has ever been a more disliked, disrespected, and just out and out hated team to win a Championship. What the members and coaching staff of this team has had to go through the past two seasons has really never been seen before. Yet, here we are two seasons, two finals appearances and a one championship later. So a tip of the cap to the Heat, and much respect from the Sports Doofus.
To Pat Riley - The Architect
Put together this team by wooing LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and re-signing Dwayne Wade. His critics were many. Who is going to play post? With that much money spent on those three players how can he build a championship roster? I cannot count how many times I heard something along the lines of "they have 3 good players, and nobody else". Yet, the roster was evidently good enough to make the NBA finals both years, and won their title in their second try. Here's the thing, this team isn't old. I keep hearing about how the Thunder are the team of the future, and they may be. But I don't think Miami is going away for the next few seasons. They are going to be around awhile.
To Eric Spoelstra - The Coach
It was just a few weeks ago and I was hearing things like "Doc Rivers is coaching circles around Spoelstra", "He's in over his head", and "Spoelstra will be fired unless the Heat win the title". Well, they won the title. Now, this wasn't an easy task for any coach. Sure he had his "Big 3" to build around, but who else could handle that many egos, that much publicity, that much pressure, and the constant scrutiny this team was under. It could have and would have crippled many coaches. Coach Spoelstra kept his cool and just did his job. I loved how he handled himself throughout the past two seasons. Every time the Heat fell behind in a series (down 2 games to 1 to the Pacers, down 3 games to 2 against the Celtics) the media was crying for his head and talking about how the Heat were "vulnerable" to this and/or that. Adjustments were made, changes in gameplan were implemented, and the Heat were able to overcome. I'm not sure it's possible that enough credit will be given to him. He deserves as much credit as anyone. Period.
To LeBron James - The Best Basketball Player on the Planet
LeBron will get most of the coverage for this championship, and deservedly so. I don't think there has ever been a player who has been more criticized despite his greatness on the court. Certainly, "The Decision" played a large factor in this. I remember watching it, and I said it myself immediately afterward, "I hate the Heat". I admit it. I piled on. I joined the Haters club. I felt like he was a cop out, and a coward, and someone undeserving of any praise. However, as the past two years went on, I couldn't help but pull for the guy a bit. He's not my favorite player, or my favorite person, but c'mon people... this guy is simply amazing. In the Celtics series, he spent time guarding Rondo (the point guard) and Garnett (the center), he did it all. He led fast breaks like a point guard, rebounded like a power forward, and led the team when they needed it (dropping over 40 points in Boston in a possible elimination game on the road). Watching him play this post season was just epic. It was an epic performance from the preeminent player in the world. I hope now that some of the haters will let go of their issues, and just enjoy the amazing abilities the man brings to the table.
To Dwayne Wade - The Sidekick
One of the things we've been subjected to redundantly over the past two years is "who's team is it?". After all, Wade had led the Heat to a title in 2006. He was the "alpha dog" in Miami, he was the man and now he was going to have to share the ball with LeBron? And countless discussions about how "LeBron and Wade play the same way... they can't survive that way" in addition to the "Who takes the last shot in a close game?" Most people felt that it would be Wade's team, and LeBron would settle in as his 2nd in command. It didn't work that way, LeBron is too good, too talented, and it takes a big man to "step aside" and let another player take over the "leadership" role (I mean, seriously can you imagine Kobe deferring to anyone? anyone?). Wade did that this season. He let LeBron take charge, and correctly so.
To Chris Bosh - The Forgotten
It wasn't long into this run, about 10 games in or so, that the jokes started. "Big 3? More like Big 2 and a half." Bosh was chastised, called out, and at times scapegoated for the failures of the team (like they don't have a post player, and Bosh just wants to shoot jumpshots). However, it was very easy to see in the Boston series how much Chris Bosh meant to this team. Boston was having their way with the Heat inside until Bosh returned from his abdominal injury. Notwithstanding his incredible performance in that game 7 win against Boston, it was just the difference he made to the team... Garnett and/or Brandon Bass couldn't drop off and help clog the lane, because Bosh made them pay from the perimeter. And he was a very impressive player throughout the NBA Finals. Lost in the hype surrounding the game 5 championship clinching win (LeBron's triple double, Mike Miller's shooting performance), was that Bosh played an outstanding game. He scored 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks...And, he got the game started scoring inside a couple of times early, and made a beautiful move past Kendrick Perkins for a dunk that ignited the crowd. Do not underestimate the importance of Bosh to this team. In reality, he really is the perfect "3rd wheel" and played his role to perfection.
To The Role Players - Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Mike Miller
For two years I've heard that the Heat "didn't have anyone outside of the Big 3". Well, that just turned out to not be true.
Shane Battier shot lights out from the field in the first few games, hitting timely 3's and keeping the floor spaced for Wade and LeBron to drive. He took charges over and over again... really I don't think I've ever seen a better charge taker than Battier. Without his performance there is no way the Heat win this title.
Mario Chalmers, despite struggling mightily from the field in games 2 and 3, made several big plays to seal game 4 for the Heat (scoring 25 points), and honestly, Chalmers is an underrated defender. I'm not saying he's in the running for any all defensive team, but he's better than you think.
Udonis Haslem didn't do anything fantastic in the finals, but he was the only "big" who saw any playing time besides Chris Bosh. He set picks, grabbed boards, and made hustle plays. And he was also HUGE in their win in the Celtics Series, especially when Bosh was out with injury. He's only 6'8" and was often guarding 7 footers, and then having to switch off on screens to guard speedy guards like Westbrook, Harden and Rondo.
Norris Cole as a rookie really came up big. He made some nice plays in the Celtics series, and he scored a quick 8 points to start the Heat comeback in game 4 (remember, they were down 17 in the first quarter of that game). This guy has a bright future in the league, and certainly showed he wasn't afraid of the moment.
Mike Miller - well, Mike didn't do much throughout the playoffs, he was bothered by a back injury, and he looked like it on the court. He couldn't run from one end to the other, he was painful just to watch. Then, game 5 of the finals he hits 7 of 8 3 pointers. Just an unconscious shooting performance from the South Dakota native (former Mitchell Kernel).
Also, a tip of the hat to the Thunder. An excellent young team, with an exciting and talented group of players that should be in the running for the NBA title for many years to come. Westbrook, Durant, Harden, and Ibaka are only going to get better. Remember Thunder fans, last season the Heat took it on the chin in the finals too. This young team keeps improving, keeps advancing a round farther in the playoffs each year. I can foresee another Heat/Thunder NBA Finals next year.
One last thought on OKC. Coach Scott Brooks has done a great job with this team. I started to read some rumors and whispers on a few talk shows, and on twitter blaming him for his team's failures. It would be a colossal mistake for the Thunder to get rid of Coach Brooks. They need to keep him and his team as intact as they can and bring it back again next year.
Thanks for reading my thoughts, enjoy your weekend!