On Hating the Miami Heat

I still hate the Heat. I resent the fact that they’re in the finals at all.

Early struggles got a lot of people (namely, ESPN) talking about the Heat “needing a couple years” to “learn how to play together.” The convenient narrative held that such a flashy inception deserved a season or two of humbling. They flew too close to the sun, they were bound to get burned.

There was also a sense in which Lebron needed to be punished. For me “The Decision” was a PR disaster comparable to Michael Richards’ racist rant: the kind of fuck-up you can’t just forget about, so tactless and self-absorbed an act that it defines the person at hand completely. I don’t know how to watch Lebron, or Kramer, without revisiting those respective moments.

A die hard Magic fan, I was happy to buy into the common knocks on the Heat, even intertwining my own half-baked notion of “better basketball” while I was at it. You can’t just throw three great players on a franchise, I would tell my friends, and call it a team. My Magic, and after they failed, the Celtics, were the foils of choice: deep teams that moved the ball, focused on defense, and won with corner threes and well-set picks. The things that good basketball are about, amirite?

A good friend, Chris Toner, made the point that Lebron is looking considerably more cool-headed and collected than he ever was under pressure with the Cavs. More broadly, I have to admit that the Heat are playing a brand of ball that is aesthetically easier to swallow, harder to hate. I maintain my main stylistic objection: the Heat are just too top-heavy. But Wade and James, the elite playmakers that they are, have a way of making guys like Mike Bibby appear to be capable of contributing to beautiful team basketball.

Furthermore, as Jeff Van Gundy pointed out on ABC’s game one broadcast: we’re a nation with a history of tolerating athletes who have committed horrible, violent crimes. Is it fair to hate a guy for choosing where he works? Heat fans like to say that the people just need a villian. Yes, that’s partly true.

And friends tell me I’m just too pot-committed to allow myself to stop hating the Heat now. I’ll admit there might be something to that.

But even having abandoned ESPN’s talking points, my gut-level objection can be boiled down to what this team to fundamentally about. The big three, Haslem, Miller and Bibby all accepted less than their market value to get a ring the easy way. Yes, you can frame it as a “sacrifice” made for the sake of “winning” — but winning on what terms? In a city that doesn’t care, on a team built from one year’s worth of free agent signings?

And with three of the league’s fifteen best players, two of whom put their adoring franchises through hell before abandoning them.

H.I.D.I.A. co-founder Paolo put it best when he wrote that this team’s cardinal sin remains “wimping out and approaching the concept of greatness without courage or leadership or inspiration.” Or grace, I’ll add. And I refuse to get behind that.


5 thoughts on “On Hating the Miami Heat

  1. I am coming at this as a long time heat fan who has a distaste for the strong bandwagon culture surrounding Miami sports in general. Some Miami fans care, who knew?

    I have been a proponent of the “we need two seasons,” belief since “the decision” (A decision that further bolstered my already strong distaste for LeBron). Thats right I’m a heat fan who does not like LeBron (to cocky and self-absorbed), but appreciate his play and contribution to the team. However, I must admit I am pleasantly surprised at where we are and how we look after one season.

    Criticizing the aesthetics of the heat made sense early on but to me no longer holds any weight. The fact is they are to top-heavy,but thats the point. It is not ugly ball, it can turn into ugly ball just like any other style of play can. Our defense is astounding and something to appreciate. Watching the big three create plays for themselves and for each other is also some of the most entertaining basketball around. I live for the fast break now. Finally, the big three have come around on making plays for the team, just think of the recent rise of Mario Chalmers as a serious corner three point threat.

    If the finals are revealing anything, its that experience and being humble are more important than heroics. After all, Miami has one King, he has a ring, his name is Dwyane Wade. He appears to be carrying the weight right now, and thats because he is the actual team leader, he is the man who has been there and got it done. That aside, the Heat and Mavs are showing us that even two super-stars and one other star need help. Even with our supposed holy trinity of ball we can barely win games and appear to always be teetering on the edge of blowing the entire 48 minutes in the last 2. We may be constructed to win a ring, and it seems like we will, but so is every other team. You can hate us for being blatant about it, but being blatant seems to be the only reason to hate one team more than any other in a league that is simply an industry made to draw our attention, spur these discussions, get ratings, and oh yeah construct teams to win championships by throwing money around (or giving it up-and who can blame them anyway? Everyone wants a ring….).

    As for the cardinal sins of, “wimping out and approaching the concept of greatness without courage or leadership or inspiration” (or grace), is simply a hollow claim to me. “The Decision,” lacked grace, but Miami ball does not. Accepting your role in a new team requires both grace and courage. Knowing when to give up the ball to another star is a courageous move requiring that one swallows their king size ego. Making it to the finals after all the hate, the rough patches, and “cry gate,” requires some inspiration, as does holding off last second game winning plays. The heat haven’t wimped out, they appear to facing up to it all, admitting their hubris, and embracing their role while playing what looks like champion caliber basketball.

  2. Kerem we’ve talked extensively on this already so I feel like I don’t need to throw anything into this arena, but thanks for taking my talking points seriously

    Also, if we can agree on one thing (and almost every basketball blog i’ve been reading seems to at least grant this point), its that we are witnessing the establishment of a new dynasty as the Lakers and Celtics stars start to fade, and this new dynasty has been giving us some seriously entertaining basketball and I wish the season weren’t about to end

  3. Some points.

    For Udonis’s reason for staying with the Heat: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/07/2254395/udonis-haslem-happy-he-chose-heat.html

    If Kobe Bryant were to have left the Lakers at some point in his career, we would have seen something very similar to LeBron’s press conference. And god dammit, if Kobe Bryant were playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he would have upped and gone to join a powerful player in L.A. in a heartbeat.

    God dammit, if I played for the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Toronto Raptors, I would gladly take a fourteen million dollar deal to play for the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade. Bosh and James each made good decisions for their careers.

    Perhaps the most crucially overlooked point in LeBron’s decision is the coincidence of Mike Brown’s firing with LeBron’s free agency. New coach equals new team.

    Finally, Toronto and Cleveland suck compared to Miami. When Basketball players dream of stardom, they dream of playing somewhere cool.

    I hope Heat fans are proud of their team in spite of everyone’s desire to discredit the fact that they have the best team. NBA teams should continue to play better, recruit better, and do the jobs that make NBA basketball awesome.

  4. To continue, the miasma that surround the miami heat is bogus. I can’t think of one current player who publicly scorns what happened in Miami. Kevin Garnett played for Minnesota for nearly ten years before giving it up. Upon being traded, Garnett offered his view of the situation. “This is probably my best opportunity at winning a ring,” Garnett said. “It was a no-brainer.”

    It’s a no-brainer. No one is supposed to be surprised when a player opts for the better chance at winning. The miasma is undeserved. LeBron’s greatness does not obligate him to stick with the Cavs, just as Garnett’s did not obligate him to stick with the Wolves.

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