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NBA Finals: Go ahead and hate Heat, but respect them

May 27, 2011, 11:04 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards Getty Images

LeBron James’ decision — and by extension LeBron himself — has become the most polarizing figure in the NBA.

That can be good for business. Heat game television ratings are through the roof — because half the people tune in to root against them. Not that ABC cares much, they just want you to tune in for the finals. But the Heat are celebrity basketball players now.

I’m not sure I get why all the LeBron hate. Because he dared go team up with other stars? As if Magic Johnson didn’t have Kareem and Worthy, or Larry Bird didn’t have Parish and McHale, as if Jordan didn’t have Pippen and a bevy of others.

Maybe it’s because LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade inverted the NBA power grid — they had the temerity to decide to team up of their own accord, rather than having some GM or rich owner do it for them? That doesn’t bother me, I like the players having more power, but maybe that’s it.

Maybe it’s that the way LeBron handled The Decision, because for some it was egotistical? It was. It left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. But if you’re going to pick your favorite sports stars based on them not having an ego you’re going to have about two to cheer. Across all sports.

Whatever the reason you hate them doesn’t really matter. Go ahead. Having heroes and villains and playing out the drama of sports through that lens is at the heart of being a fan. Arrange people in those categories however you wish. But you had better also do this:

Respect the Heat.

Because while it took most of a season they have figured it out. They have gone from playing next to each other to playing off each other. They are playing smart, good basketball. They are a team, and potentially a special one playing beautiful basketball.

Did you watch LeBron the distributor in Game 4 against the Bulls? He made smart decisions with the ball virtually ever time down. It felt like Magic at times. Did you watch him on defense shut down Derrick Rose at the end of games? Shutting down the opponents best was like Jordan. When the moment called for it, did you watch him drain three pointers? That felt like Bird.

Beyond LeBron, Bosh has figured out how to step up when the other two are defended well or have focused on other tasks, he has figured out how to mesh with them. Wade remains as good a penetrator as there is in the league, as good a leader as the league has now.

Now you see the Heat going to a LeBron and Wade pick and roll at key moments. You see Bosh working hard off the ball and slashing to the rim. You see them all trusting Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller (and even Mike Bibby). You see LeBron and Wade taking on rebounding when the Heat needed it after Game 1 against the Bulls.

You see a team. All three are versatile. All three can play at both ends of the floor. All three — and by extension the Heat — have evolved into a dangerous team. Not a collection of stars, but a team.

You don’t have to like that. But you have to respect it.

  1. luckylosers - May 29, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    The only NBA team worthy of any respect was the Grizzlies (lost R. Gay and still were a tough out). James leaves a team that he apparently couldn’t “inspire” enough to win a championship (please don’t compare to Jordan). I thought he showed his real self against the Celts last year. Anyway…the NBA is a sorry product.

    • detlefschrempfriedrice - May 30, 2011 at 3:16 AM

      Then why do you follow it?

    • anythingbutyanks - May 30, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      Then, of course, YOU decided which “self” is the “real” self. Why did you choose the Celts series from last year and not the Bulls series of this year? Or the fact that he single-handedly got them to the finals the year prior? You don’t hate LeBron because of LeBron, you hate him because of you.

  2. jeffnmac - May 30, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    purdueman… so ignorant and jealous. i dont see how a team or person can be so hated for having an ego at all. ego is a mentality to be the best and damnit LBJ is trying to do just that. everyone says how he is no where near micheal because he has no rings?? wth do you expect him to do other than leave cleaveland if they wont put any better supporting players by his side. to whoever said lebron needs people to help him play better i shake my head at you. no one player can win a championship by himself. so keep the lebron hate and heat hate at an all time high it does nothin but give them more swag after a playoff victory.

    • purdueman - May 30, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      jeffy…I’m not ignorant but by calling someone you don’t know the same it does show that you must be how old? 18? 19? I’m not jealous either; I’m a God fearing man who has always reminded people that you come into this world with nothing and you leave this world with nothing. In the end, it makes no difference to God if you’re rich or poor or somewhere in between like most of us.

      I don’t begrudge James for leaving Cleveland though; what’s such a total turnoff about James is how he has to constantly surround himself with a bunch of money grubbing leaches, otherwise known as his posse. That show no class; it’s just pure narcissism.

      Wade is the punk of the so called “Big 3″; little more than puppetmaster greaser Riley’s stooge. Bosh is the class of the 3; nothing not to like about Chris.

      • southbeachtalent - May 31, 2011 at 9:37 AM

        So he is calling you ignorant (rightfully so) and your response is he doesn’t know you. Then you go ahead and call Wade a punk and Riley a greaser??? Why do you care who LeBron hangs out with? As usual you make absolutely no sense… Glad to see your Purdue education is paying off….. LOSER!!

        You are petty, jealous, and a hypocrit. That about sums you up. Now go and watch the Heat in the Finals while your team watches as well, LOSER!

        Heat in 6…

      • purdueman - May 31, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        southbeach… why don’t you just admit that you’re not man enough to handle anyone who dares to post anything that you don’t happen to agree with about your precious Heat???

        Your lunatic rants are just showing everyone that you are a horse’s ass! (with apologies to the horse).

      • purdueman - May 31, 2011 at 12:54 PM

        Pat Riley reportedly uses 20W50 Pennzoil for hair tonic; ’nuff said.

  3. rylandstewart - May 30, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    What is with this country? The word hate is attached to so many things that are in no way normal. People who “hate” LeBron James for making a business decision, for leaving a place of employment that where he was unhappy, or for the fact he is good at what he does and has an ego. So what? What does that have to do with any of you? Hate is scary. It shows that there is a lot of mental illness in this country when you go around hating people you don’t know and never will. You have no relationship with them whatsoever and because they don’t live their lives the way YOU think they should, you hate them? There is something really wrong with that.

  4. rylandstewart - May 30, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    The writer of this article says, “Go ahead and hate Heat, but respect them?” What kind of idiot says it’s ok to hate someone or something? This kind of thinking is what is wrong with this country as it is. Ok to hate? Wow!! No wonder the KKK thrives with people like this writer oking that obnoxious behavior. Shame on this writer and shame on the people who hired him.

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