There’s a perception of greatness. Once you reach the top of your profession, you are then judged against the best to ever do it. There’s also a ladder to immortality. It’s a ladder the Miami Heat will still be climbing next season, after catching their second NBA Championship in a row .
The second has to be far sweeter than the first, which was really just a formality on the road to the Big Three cementing themselves as one of the most dominant NBA teams of the last 25 years. This was the follow-up smash that kept them from joining the list of one-hit wonders.
When the Big Three formed like Voltron, thanks to LeBron James and Chris Bosh’s decision to join Dwyane Wade and make South Beach their 2010 free agent destination, they promised triple-doubles, dimes, dominance and devastation in the form of eight championships. At the pep rally, introducing the Big Three, ’Bron said it should be easy to lay wreck to the NBA with three All-Stars playing with a common purpose — to create a dynasty.
While it hasn’t been the cakewalk James, Wade and Bosh predicted, any Wall Street broker and big business guru dealing in bottom lines, is screaming “buy Miami Heat stock.”
Who’s a better bet than them these days? Indiana had its opportunities to shock the world in the ECF, but came up short; and the Spurs had the Heat dead in Game 6 before choking. The Heat survived it all.
If the Big Three’s time together had ended with a loss in these finals, it’s debatable whether or not their ranking amongst the all-time squads would hold much weight historically. We’d certainly be talking about the Big Three’s “experiment” as a failure, but their impressive overall body of work would still have to be recognized.
Three straight conference finals series is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, the Knicks from ’50-’52 (who lost to Minneapolis Lakers twice, Rochester Royals once) and the Lakers from ’68-’70 (who lost to the Celtics twice, the Knicks once) are the only other teams in NBA history to lose three Finals in a row.
It seems almost silly that after 246 games of mad-balling that one game should weigh so heavily for these guys, but, regardless, you have to be exceptionally dope to keep getting to the Finals. But to then win under the pressure the Big Three set up for themselves is truly the stuff of legends.
It’s hard to separate the Big Three from LeBron James’ personal legacy. They are forever intertwined. Let’s not forget he called on these guys to help him change the NBA community’s perception of him as a clutch performer. If LBJ had failed in his quest for back-to-back chips, the Big Three, as a whole, would be labeled underachievers.
Despite the doubters, haters and instigators, Miami withstood every challenge with a champion’s chin.
They weren’t the Mona Lisa, though.
There were personal doubts and riffs that the media tried to frame as diminishing chemistry. During the Pacers series, when LeBron said he felt like he was back in Cleveland and Wade shot back with a plea for LBJ to trust his teammates more, the exchange was cast as extreme friction that could be signaling the end of the triumvirate. Bosh mostly stays quiet like Pras of The Fugees, and, in retrospect, he played his role to perfection. The Heat could have used more than his goose egg in Game 7, but do not underestimate Bosh’s timely impact in the ’13 playoffs.
The greatest NBA threesomes of all time were dominated by ego but balanced with a selfless presence. Magic and Kareem had Worthy. Ginobili and Parker have Duncan.
Wade was already NBA royalty after winning a chip with the Diesel in ’06. Adding two more only enhances his stature. Busted knees and all, Wade was there to gut through rough performances and come up with some gems as co-pilot of Miami’s emotionally-charged existence. His 23 and 10 performance was the stuff of champions.
If LeBron thought the media–stoning he endured following his departure from Cleveland was rough, his first Heat offseason after losing to Dirk and the Mavs in the Finals had to be torture. The Big Three — in the eyes of many — made a deal with the Devil. They manipulated free agency, stacked the cards in their favor and left themselves no room for error or sympathy.
They were like distance runners and the crowd was just waiting for them to fall down face-first on the track; but Miami’s success never really wavered. And from the 27-game winning streak to the rough spots en route to this championship, they stuck to the recipe of relying on the Big Three.
Sure cats like Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier (six treys in Game 7), Birdman Andersen and Mike Miller lent a hand; but there was a span in Game 7, with 2:28 left in the third, where Wade and James scored 36 of the Heat’s last 41 points. Like every hard-body squad, they smelled blood and executed the assassination, finishing with 60 combined points. That’s how it shakes when you’re playing like your lives and legacies depend on it.
They’ve come a long way from listening to pundits argue about whose team the Heat is and who takes the last shot. The Big Three were battling on so many fronts -- especially against the basketball purists who felt they positioned themselves for greatness by playing shady poker -- but with this hard-fought Finals win, their union can no longer be called a bitch move. It will forever be recognized as a game-changing G-move.
Some folks will continue to minimize Miami’s dominance because they rub some people the wrong way. The smugness and brash humor of LeBron’s post-game press conference shows no signs of let-up coming from Erik Spoelstra’s squad anytime soon. Only Mother Nature can stop this runaway train. Some might suggest that it’s better for GM Pat Riley to start dismantling the team now rather than when it’s too late, but despite signs of wear and tear on Wade and Bosh, breaking up the band is not an option. (Bosh is owed $61 million over the next three years and Wade is Mr. Miami.)
Next season, if Riley can surround his aging stars with some young go-getters, Miami and its three commanding officers have a chance to triple down on those rings. As it stands today, leaving Cleveland was the right choice for LBJ, and giving up life as a Canadian basketball King has paid its dividends for Bosh.
These guys made a choice that they knew would be unpopular, but ultimately, everything worked out and they have changed the way NBA teams are built forever. Greedy for hardware yet unselfish in the way they went about obtaining it, the Big Three are legends.