Remember “The Decision”, Miami Heat fans? Remember “Not three, not four, not five…”? It was all good just four years ago, was it not Heat fans? The flamingo pink beach shirts and extra tight Capri jeans adorned by some of the most explosive athletes in the world might have been frowned upon in some other locales, but in Miami it was considered par for the course. Remember when LeBron James first came to town? There was a turquoise tinted beach party for all the ages occurring on South Beach. It’s not like you guys never, ever experienced a championship run before down in Miami. It was only 10 years ago when Pat Riley sold the farm in a bid to land Shaquille O’Neal. It took two seasons but in the 2006 NBA Finals, a resurgent Shaquille O’Neal, a young Dwyane Wade, an offensively-passive Dallas Mavericks team and an NBA officiating crew were instrumental in getting the Miami-Dade metropolitan area their first major championship trophy since the Marlins won the World Series in 2003. Were you a Marlins fan? Probably not?
I cannot help but wonder how many of you are true Miami Heat fans and how many are bandwagon riders. But I got a funny feeling we’re about to find out. After four straight seasons of ascending to the top of the mountain, with an NBA Finals record of 2-2 with the Heat, LeBron James now says he will opt out of his contract and test the open market. With a steadily aging Dwyane Wade, a starting point guard who is a career backup at best, and a coach who lacks the creativity on the offensive end to fully utilize All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who has been relegated to little more than a glorified jump shooter for the past two seasons, the Miami Heat’s pseudo-dynasty appears to be on shaky ground.
One cannot help but be curious about the true allegiance of flakey fans who only started cheering for the Heat because it was the popular thing to do. Are you one of those people, Dear Heat fan? To be certain, there have always been a plethora of frontrunner fans to emerge from the woodwork whenever a sports dynasty is at hand. The Boston Celtics of the 1980s were the place to be for any white basketball fan, just as the Los Angeles Lakers of the same era represented the lights-camera-action persona of Hollywood. Meanwhile, the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons were not only indicative of the blue collar work ethic of the Motor City, but of the tough-mindedness of all those who dwelled in urban areas throughout the United States. And lest we forget that Michael Jordan’s transcendence as a basketball megastar was the impetus for a migration of biomass onto the Chicago Bulls’ bandwagon, not unlike the great annual wildebeest migrations of the Serengeti.
The strange thing about being a bandwagon rider, Dear Miami Heat fan, is that many likely do not realize that they are, in fact, bandwagon riders. For example, many of you will swear that you have always been Miami Heat fans since day one, but frown when asked who Tim Hardaway is, becoming bewildered when quizzed as to the effectiveness of Rony Seikaly’s low post game or Vashon Leonard’s shooting ability, or what point guard nicknamed The General was drafted by the Miami Heat in 1989. If you were old enough to recall that year yet still said “Who?” to any of that then you’re likely not a real Heat fan. If you can’t tell me who was dumped from the Heat’s roster in order for the Heat to land Shaquille O’Neal then this is about you. Some can’t even recall what year the team came into existence. Heck, I’ll make it even easier for you. What University of Michigan small forward led the team in scoring in 1991? Still don’t know? Dang, that was an easy one…smh (hint: like white on ____)
With the utter dismantling of your supposed "dynasty" by the San Antonio Spurs, and the subsequent calling out of one LeBron James by Miami Heat president and GM Pat Riley, we find the Heat as a team at the crossroads. If LeBron James decides to take his talents elsewhere, will you still cheer for a team in the rebuilding stage or simply burn your jersey in favor of another squad? Only time will tell. However, it’s a safe bet to say that if LeBron James were wearing a Charlotte Hornets jersey at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season the North Carolina franchise will instantly become a popular bandwagon for fans and players alike. Many will bash LeBron James for his lack of loyalty if he leaves, but half will follow him wherever he goes.
That’s just the way it is.