March 7, 2011 1 Comment
After “The Decision,” it was widely assumed that the Miami Heat would roll over their competition, on the path to unprecedented success. The combination of James, Wade and Bosh would be too much talent for any opponent to stand in their path. As the Heat struggled at the beginning of the season, everyone said that the superstar trio needed time to build some cohesion as they started their quest for multiple championships. After losing five of their past six games, it might be time to stop making excuses.
When Michael Jordan was coming in to the NBA, he was drafted number three in the 1984 draft. Sure, Jordan came in as a heralded player after his impressive three year career at UNC. However, there were doubts whether he would be a dominant force in the NBA. Over the first seven years of Jordan’s legendary career, there was a strong hesitation to anoint MJ as the king of hoops, with forces such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird standing in his path. Jordan earned the respect of everyone and their grandmother, with dominating performances and championships.
LeBron, however, was anointed the king of hoops by Slam magazine and Sports Illustrated when he was merely 16 years old. The NBA was ready to pass the torch to LeBron from almost the minute he stepped foot on an NBA court. Over the first seven years of LeBron’s career, pundits were ready with an excuse for every failure, and high praise for his success. Last season was LeBron’s seventh season, the same season in which MJ won his first title. Is it finally time to say that LeBron may never be king of the NBA, let alone an NBA champion?
The Heat are shooting a miserable 1-16 on game winning or tying shots at the end of close games this season. After the big headed three chose to bring their talents to South Beach, it was assumed that with James and Wade, the Heat should be unstoppable in crunch time, as their role players should have wide open looks, assuming their stars didn’t step up to save the day. Instead of relying on open jump shots from high percentage shooters, the Heat prefer to stand around and watch LeBron play in crunch time. This strategy worked miserably for Cleveland, as they underperformed in the playoffs in every season besides ’07, and it doesn’t look like it’s working any better this season.
The 90′s generation of NBA stars, including Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq and Kevin Garnett, have managed to sustain an unusually long peak. Kobe Bryant has never truly passed the torch to LeBron. When LeBron was dominating the regular season and winning MVPs, Kobe was winning titles and Finals MVPs. It seems the “old guys” have a few more seasons left, which may pose a difficult challenge for the Heat, as they try to get past teams like the Celtics and Lakers.
It’s not just the vets that the Heat have to worry about. The last several draft classes have infused the NBA with a new generation of stars, and hard-working, unselfish players that will prove difficult for the Heat to overcome in the future. Oklahoma City arguably has a top two that rivals the Heat in Russel Westbrook and reigning scoring champion Kevin Durant. While the Heat are made up of their stars and minimum salary players, the Thunder are stacked from one to fifteen. With several other young challengers scattered throughout the league capable of winning titles, such as Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and the new look Knicks, LeBron is far from guaranteed to even win a single title in his career.
The Heat have dropped five out of their past six games, with LeBron James missing three game winning or tying shots over that span. LeBron promised in today’s post game report after the loss to the Bulls, to stop failing his team in crunch time. Maybe the best way for LeBron to stop failing his team, would be to let a clutch player handle the ball in crunch time? Heat coach Erik Spoelstra reported that several members of the team were crying in the locker room after the loss. If the Heat players are crying after a regular season loss, I wonder how many tissues they will go through in a seven game series against Boston?
I know this post is very biased against the Heat, but just like Bill Simmons openly writes as a Celtics fan, I can’t hide my affinity for the Knicks. I don’t care that we have been down for a decade, I never let down on my hatred towards the Heat. Besides, history repeats itself. In ’99, the Knicks beat the Heat in the first round as an eight seed. Hopefully this season, the Knicks will draw LeBitch and crew in the first round, and teach them a history lesson.