Rooting against Miami has become a moral obligation, so it’s time to support the Heat.
I want the Miami Heat to beat the Chicago Bulls.
It’s shocking for me to type that. But I really do.
When LeBron, Bosh, and Wade signed with Miami I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s just three guys trying to win a championship. No more, no less. But whether he wants there to be or not—and he almost always does—there’s always more with LeBron. It’s more than basketball. It’s more than winning. LeBron’s doesn’t want to be the best at basketball. He wants to be the best at basketball-plus-everything-else. So, before a season begins, months and months before, you get something like this:
Then the season started, and they really weren’t that good. They lost a lot of games, and we all got something out of them being so bad.
You idiots! That’s what happens when you try to buy a championship. You have to beat the best to be the best. You don’t just go join up with them. A team takes more than three players. Defense wins championships. There’s no “I” in team. Hair of the dog. When in Rome. Cliché. Cliché. Cliché.
Eventually, though, things started to click. They destroyed the Lakers on Christmas day. It was scary—a temporary realization of how easily this team could decimate the league. But it was just that: only temporary. They still won a lot of games, but they couldn’t win the big ones. The Bulls, the Spurs, and the Celtics were still too much. The three capital-T Teams passed and moved and knew each other better than the temporary, not-yet-ready-made Heat.
They were good, but good teams don’t get preseason welcome parties. We don’t really know who, exactly, gets a preseason welcome party, but we knew it wasn’t this team.
And we knew you didn’t root for the Heat. Not-the-Heat became everyone’s second-favorite team. We rooted for whomever the assholes were playing. It was almost like you didn’t have a choice. If you gave a shit about the soul of the NBA, you wanted to see Miami lose. If you ever rooted for Miami, you were a troll, an idiot, or the combination of the two: an actual Miami Heat fan. There was no defense for supporting The Big Three.
But then it got old. And the Heat got good.
I don’t really know where it happened, but the Heat bashing came to represent something more than just not liking the team. It wasn’t just supporting what was right with basketball, anymore. It was supporting what’s right with life … with everything. Anti-Miami sentiment became an attempt at moral obligation. It tried—way too artificially—to make itself a necessity for, well, being a good person. You couldn’t relate to this team and you couldn’t root for this team—save for the five dyed-in-the-wool Miami supporters—if you lived your life with any kind of introspection or concern for what kind of person you were.
I don’t know what’s happening with Cleveland. The city has been through a lot—and that’s unfairly simplifying it. There’s something going on there, and I’m too scared to find out what it is. But the James Era is over. LeBron is gone. He’s moved on, but Cleveland still hasn’t. There’s a hatred that transcends sports. It’s still radiating whenever LeBron takes a wrong step or tries to right a wrong. It’s the ugliness of “hyperpartisanship” that Brian Phillips wrote about a few weeks ago.
We like talking about sports as more than sports. There’s more there than just a game. If there wasn’t, a lot of us wouldn’t have jobs. There’s so much more than what happens on the field or court, but when rooting against a team becomes some kind of vessel for what’s right in the world and, at the same time, justifying some ugly, irrational hatred, it turns me off. Especially when that’s not at all what it really represents.
Like I wrote about on Friday, the Bulls are the good guys and the Heat are the bad guys. It’s already being pushed on us, even though it’s really just the guys who got LeBron and Wade versus the guys who didn’t.
The Heat are awesome to watch. With two unselfish, super-athletic stars, every night they do things we’ve never seen before. It’s shocking and makes Heat games weirdly disappointing. You wonder why they can’t blow your mind every time down the court. They’re uniquely impressive on defense, too. It’s a garishly unbalanced roster, but they’ve made it work all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Whatever you think about the Decision, the South Beach preseason coronation, and the idea of three guys making a pact to play together, there’s nothing inherently evil about this team.
Sure, at times, there’s been a lack of self-awareness, but that’s it. LeBron is immature. And by taking his side and not saying anything, we group Bosh and Wade in there too. But LeBron’s slowly learning, and these guys really didn’t do anything bad. They did something different, and it wasn’t even really all that different, was it? The Heat are so much less than what they’ve come to represent.
If that makes me a troll, so be it. I’ve always wanted an excuse to not wear a shirt and get a belly-button ring anyway.
—Photo AP/Mike Fuentes