by: Desmond Johnson
What a difference a year makes….
Almost a full year ago, we watched Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh form a so called “Super Team” in Miami. These Miami Heat were going to run roughshod over the league, not just once or twice but for the foreseeable future. It brought up the age old question….how do you guard two guys (Wade and James) that are basically unguardable?
I even went as far as comparing James turning his back on the state of Ohio to Hulk Hogan turning his back on all the little Hulkamaniacs out there and joining the Outsiders to form the original New World Order in World Championship Wrestling back in the late 90’s. It was written in jest. I went back and read it again last week and as it turns out…I wasn’t far off from how the Heat’s season actually ended.
In my article last year I compared James to “Hollywood” Hogan (due to his nationally televised swerve to about five suitors and a middle finger to Cleveland), the so called “leader” of this group. This version of Hogan was egotistical, only cared about himself, and constantly referred to himself in the 3rd person. Nothing like the Hulkster that adults and kids alike had grown to love. Wade was Kevin Nash, a former champion himself, and definitely worthy of the “leader” tag, yet content to allow Hogan to lead. This was possibly to deflect any shots about his in-ring game, which had holes in it as well. Something goes wrong, blame Hogan. Hogan loses the belt, blame Hogan. Not my fault. Sound vaguely familiar? Chris Bosh was the Scott Hall of this daydream, very emotional, very talented, deferred to the other two but did the dirty work (rebounding, shot blocking, defending, crying). Hall was also an alcoholic, didn’t listen to authority and was the actual creator of the NWO. Bosh is none of those things, but we’re nit picking at this point. The proverbial table was set.
So what the hell happened? The Heat miss Wade for the majority of the preseason while he dealt with a family matter, then proceeded to start the season 9-8. Panic gripped the state of Florida. The Heat then proceeded to rattle off a long winning streak, beating up on the likes of Golden State, the L.A. Clippers, even our Charlotte Bobcats. Things were picking up.
A butt kicking of the L.A. Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day established the Heat as the team to beat for the 2nd half of the season. Due to their horrible start, the Heat clinched the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the last day of the regular season. James and Wade were both in the top ten in points per game. James, Wade and Bosh made the All-Star team. Every venue they went to, they were hated, reviled. Especially the first trip to Cleveland, where extra security was needed to avoid a fan doing something stupid. Wade and James claimed that they fed off the hatred, and they liked playing on the road, but the words were flimsy at best, a lie at their worst. As the season progressed and the media coverage became even more intense, we wondered aloud how any team could withstand the instant pressure, brought on upon themselves ironically.
After toying with the Philadelphia 76’ers in the 1st round, the Heat beat their arch rivals the Boston Celtics in the 2nd Round and celebrated as if they had just won the Finals. This would be the equivalent of the NWO beating down the older version of the Four Horsemen, when you knew that they couldn’t hang anymore. You know…the version that had a old, flabby looking Ric Flair (the dirtiest player in the game), young Chris Beniot (who went crazy), Dean Malenko (who???) and Steve “Mongo” McMichael (what?). Celtics go down in 5 games. Next up the Chicago Bulls, owners of the best regular season record in the NBA. Down in 5 games. James personally closed out BOTH teams in dazzling 4th quarter performances, including a televised hit and run murder of the Celtics in Game 5. Check out this sequence. Three pointer, steal, dunk, rebound, foul, 2 made free throws, three pointer. That just happened. And it happened in the last 1:10 of the game. It looked like the talk about James not being able to finish off teams was over….
Until the NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks had just finished beating the crap out of the Western Conference. This included such opponents as the 2-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (swept in 4 games), the Portland Trail Blazers (out in 5) and the current media darlings as the “next” team, the Oklahoma City Thunder (out in 5). The Mavs used the same type of philosophy that the Orlando Magic used with Dwight Howard….”Lets take our 7 footer, and surround him with 3 point shooters. But not just 2 or 3. How about 7 guys? Oh, yeah…our 7 footer is Dirk Nowitski by the way, the best European basketball player…possibly EVER.” The plan worked.
These Mavericks represented the WWE. They were stronger, faster, had more bodies and would eventually overwhelm you. The Heat controlled Game 1 and was in control of Game 2 until late in the 2nd half when Dwayne Wade hit a 3 pointer in the face of the Dallas Mavericks bench and “taunted” them. The series shifted to Dallas after that, and you know the rest.
So what DID happen to James in the Finals? He looked tentative, unwilling to drive to the basket. Matter of fact, he was unwilling to do much of anything but stand out on the perimeter as if he was waiting for a bus or a pizza order. My theory? James doesn’t like contact. I know he’s 6’8” and 260 pounds. I know he should be a linebacker or a tight end for some NFL team. But I think there is a reason why James didn’t choose Football over Basketball, even though he was an All State selection in both. Teams that show a willingness to slap him around a few times throw him off his game and turn him into a player unsure of his talents. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
It’s similar to Mike Tyson in “Mike Tyson’s Punchout” on Nintendo (you know what I’m talking about, don’t front). Iron Mike would come out with a flurry of vicious uppercuts that you HAD to avoid for the first round in order to survive. If you happened to make past that 1st round though, Mike’s “baddest man on the planet” identity began to crumble. And you could beat him. And YOU felt like the baddest man on the planet when you finally did. But the fear of meeting Tyson outweighed the actual fight. These Miami Heat looked to just show up to certain games and expected teams to roll over. The Mavericks didn’t do it.
Look no further than the Boston/Cleveland series in 2010. Accused of mailing it in, and not showing up, James was basically invisible as the Celtics clinched the series. James looked disinterested at 1st glance. But in hindsight, I think he was flat out scared to drive into the paint with Kevin Garnett manning the back line. In the Mavericks series it was Tyson Chandler….
But, wait a minute! Wait just a MINUTE! What about the 25 point outburst against the Pistons early in his playoff career? What about the way he personally sent home the Celtics this year? What about his lockdown defense on reigning league MVP Derrick Rose that allowed the Heat to get to the Finals? Where is that guy?
And that’s the problem with Lebron James. For years people have tried to make James into the next Jordan. He wants to be a global icon. Fine. But he’s not Michael Jordan. Jordan played hurt, sick, pissed off. He got his numbers 90% of the time and never shrank in the spotlight. He expected it. He WANTED it. James looked as if he was either trying to prove a point or he simply didn’t want it. Your NEW NBA champions, the DALLAS MAVERICKS!!!!
So what happens now? Nothing. Everything. The Big 3 are in Miami for another 6 seasons. Pat Riley needs a young pass first point guard and some young size down low. The oddmakers in Las Vegas already have the Heat as a 5-2 favorite to win it all next year and they are probably right.
Unless these Miami Heat players follow the blueprint from the New World Order. Hogan (James) was declared the leader, but everyone knew it was Nash (Wade)…eventually Nash wanted to lead and be champion himself. It fractured the group and Hogan and Nash ending up running two separate factions of the NWO. Hall was left out in the cold, the “Lone Wolf”. Eventually, seeing the error of their ways, the New World Order reformed, but by then it was too late. People didn’t care, the wrestlers were older, fans had figured the gimmick out.
Am I suggesting the Heat make a trade? No. Keep the Big 3, let them grow together. James and Bosh are 26, Wade is 28….a NBA player hits his prime from age 27-32. Their time is right now. And we’ll all be “witnesses”. Only this time, we have no idea what we will see. And I like it that way. Congrats to Nowitski and the Mavs for playing fantastic defense, draining a truckload of three pointers and playing team basketball. Maybe the Heat learned something from you. Probably not, but you never know!
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