Tomorrow, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will play the fifth game of the NBA Finals. The Spurs, who have unambiguously proven to be the better team in the series, having convincingly won three of the four games played so far, may very well win this game and claim the championship. If this was, instead of a seven-game series deciding the NBA Champion, a dance-off, the Spurs would be Mikhail Baryshnikov to the Heat’s Fat Joe. My favorite basketball team is getting embarrassed on a gigantic stage. It’s increasingly obvious that Dwyane Wade will never again warrant the money due to him, and everyone can opt out of their deal, etc, etc, etc. This initially upset me a great bit. I woke up after Game 4 content, until I realized that Game 4 had actually happened, then I wept into my Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and shuffled into work exhibiting Beasley-esque body language and posture. This is the wrong way for me to be going about this situation, I realized. In my life as a basketball fan, I’ve been on the good side of a) the 2006 Finals, where Wade turned Super Saiyan 4, b) The Decision, c) every Eastern Conference Finals since I was in high school, d) the 2012 finals, which proved to be a coronation for LeBron, more than anything else, and e) the 2013 Finals.
The rest of the alphabet goes, in particular, to Ray Allen’s legendary Game 6 shot. My first reaction to that shot was “ERGSFAGRYJEYRHTGWEFEWTHERT”. My second reaction, however, was “wow, an entire fanbase just spent every bit of positive karma that it would ever deserve in a fair and just world.” Standing at the precipice of a second Finals defeat, this feels nothing like the first. First of all, when the Heat lost to the Mavericks in 2011, they were starting Joel Anthony and the shambling corpse of Mike Bibby. The whole Big Three experiment was on trial. That loss felt like the triumph of good over evil. In a parallel universe, I would have been pulling for the Mavericks to defeat the Knicks or Lakers or Bulls with the same Big Three. It made me feel like a Yankees fan with egg on his face. No fewer than seven revelers texted me the night the Heat lost that series, to rub it in. Not the best feeling. Since then, as you well know, things have turned around. The Heat made smart signings, played some very nice basketball, and won some championships. The Big Three thing has largely been vindicated as a brilliant move, especially when compared to other teams’ attempts at superteam building (see the Dwight Howard-era Lakers). I have seen more great basketball things happen in the last eight years than a 75-year-old Cleveland sports fan has seen in his entire life, in all sports combined.
Of course, I’d like the Heat to win the last three games of this series and complete a threepeat. Of course, I would like the team to conduct more salary-cap legerdemain and build a stronger team for next year, adjusting for the decline of Wade and the impending retirement of several key role players. I wouldn’t be a fan if I didn’t want them to win ever year and sign the best possible players and destroy all competition. But I’m also equipped for the possibility that the opposite happens: they lose tonight, Lebron and Bosh leave after this season, believing that the Heat’s core is no longer championship-worthy, and Wade opts into the last couple of years of his deal because he would lose tens of millions of dollars otherwise. The team, could, in theory, be deep in the lottery as soon as next year. That would spell the end of the constant national TV appearances and relevance, for a while. Even if all of that happens, I’m still in an awful position to complain about basketball. It’d be the same as going to Whole Foods and complaining about the lack of red quinoa in the bulk bins, given the amount of people (Pacers fans, probably) who eat only white rice as their dietary source of grain. I am at peace with the end of this era. I’ll tell my kids about it. I’ll youtube The Shot on bad days. Anyway, enough of that, Pat Riley is going to find a way to sign Melo, the end.