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For LeBron, Heat, Game 7 is about legacy

Jun 3, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Miami Heat's LeBron James reacts during their NBA Eastern Conference Final playoff series against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis Reuters

The Miami Heat have made no bones about it — they want to go down as one of the great teams of all time.

They know that to do that it means hanging banners. Plural. LeBron knows that at the end of his career for him to be ranked among the all time greats he needs rings. Not one, not two….

Win on Monday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Miami will have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals with at least one win. They will have been tested but passed.

But if the big front line of the Indiana Pacers exposes the inherent flaws in Miami’s small ball and beats them — if the Heat lose Game 7 Monday night at home — there will be some real soul searching to do in South Beach.

They won one title with small ball, but is that sustainable? What roster changes are needed to continue contending? Then comes the bigger question of how a capped-out team can actually make any significant changes?

Win or lose, for the start of next season it is likely little would change in Miami — and it doesn’t need to, this is a 66-win team — but the bigger picture questions would go under a microscope after a loss.

A Heat loss would be fuel on the smoldering fire of “LeBron James is going to opt out in 2014 and go to __________.” Cavaliers, Lakers and the fans of 27 other fan bases will be convincing themselves LeBron can’t win in Miami anymore and he will bolt to them.

Don’t bet on him being inching to bolt. Nothing is impossible, but odds are still against it. He likes Miami. He can get more money and a longer contract from them (plus there are no state taxes). If LeBron thinks the window is closing on this roster, the real question is does he believe Pat Riley can restructure a team that can get him more rings? Obviously, there are advantages to recruiting young men to come to Miami.

Another storyline to be shaped by Game 7 — does Dwyane Wade have anything left? He has looked injured, older, slower and he can’t finish around the rim the same way. He has struggled this series, if he struggles in Game 7 and Miami loses, there chorus of “he’s too old and can’t stay healthy” will ringer ever lounder.

Riley and the Heat brain trust will be forced to make sure LeBron understands they plan to renovate the roster around him at some point, and there will be a more urgent consideration of “what is next?” Can they keep  Wade healthy? How do they attract better balanced talent? And to do that would it require shopping Chris Bosh around?

A loss in Game 7 would not fully shape the legacy of LeBron — he’s still just 28 — nor this version of the Miami Heat. In our instant decision world we want to think “they lose and LeBron bolts” when life is just not that clean and simple.

However, a loss forces a lot of questions to the surface and could portend bigger changes coming. Because now it’s not just about another ring, it’s about legacy.

  1. explosionsauce - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Seems like we are back to square one. It’s not the big three anymore, it’s just lebron and two expensive contracts.

    • gmsingh - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      So far don’t we have “getting T’d up for acting like a baby” as Lebron’s legacy?

    • gmen4life33 - Jun 3, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      Kind of right. But it’s more like Lebron, 2 expensive contracts, and Stern. No way Heat lose tonight, unless Pacers severely outplay them. Bad reffing both ways in this series, but the pattern has been to give the Heat the lead and let the Pacers draw out the series for ratings.

      Game will be close, 2 or 3 bad calls will give Miami a 6-8 point swing, crowd will go crazy, young Pacers team will get mad and frazzled, will balloon to a double digit lead in 2nd half, game over. People dont realize what obv favoritism does other then the obv points given to the team. It also creates momentum for one side, and throws the other side off their game.

      I would love to see Pacers vs Spurs finals, but that would be the lowest TV rating finals in the last 10 years. Do you think the NBA will allow that….??? MIA is already a GREAT team with the BEST player, they only need a stretch of 6th man of the year Stern in the 2nd half and series over.

      • miamatt - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        Wouldn’t Stern have preferred Knicks-Heat and Thunder-Warriors?

        Or is it only rigged concerning Miami? Let 3 (really 4, Miami is only 16th largest TV market) small market teams into the conference finals, let the Spurs waltz into the Finals, but then decide it is time to start rigging games?

        Why even watch the NBA if there is such “obv favoritism”? You’re right though, I’m sure Memphis, San Antonio, and Indianapolis representing 75% of the final four is just how a conspiratist would have drawn it up. What a joke.

      • gmen4life33 - Jun 3, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        I am not saying Stern is going to the refs and saying “Heat must win”. Refs do not go into a series saying X team has to win. HOWEVER, the system said up by Stern does show favoritism, that can TIP a series one way (Heat are already GREAT, they only need a slight advantage).

        Stern picks what Refs ref the big games, and advance in there career. NOT and independent source that looks over film and grades their officiating. Just Stern. Refs know Stern wants big market team in Finals for OBV RATINGS (Actual Stern quote back in the day “My dream Finals would be Lakers Celtics every years).

        So as a Ref, you know what your boss wants, you know your boss decides how far your career advances (based on no facts, just his liking), 50/50 call at end of Pacers/Heat game 7. you are the Ref, WHO ARE YOU GIVING THE CALL TO??

        If you want to Ref next years ECF, you give the call to the Heat. Be real man. Once again, if the Pacers outplay Heat by a 8-10 point margin, they win, but if they are only 2-4 points better, they are going to lose, Heat get a handicap, deal with it.

      • goodknave - Jun 3, 2013 at 3:02 PM

        There is NO way the NBA will allow a San Antonio-Indiana Final. Right now, someone at ABC (ESPN) is writing a check to Stern to make sure that Miami is not done tonight. How many times do we have to see this league’s underhanded chicanery? It happens all the time, from the Knicks winning the first-ever lottery to the league suspending Milwaukee’s Scott Williams for Game 7 of the ’01 ECF against Philly.

        This league used to be outstanding. Now it is nothing more than a realityTV show, orchestrated much like all the other dreck.

  2. worldbfree4me - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    Vegas was built on Suckers betting against the odds! If you bet your stash, cash or anything near and dear to your heart on the Pacers beating the HEAT, kiss it good bye. The Spurs made a few and I mean very people some money. Who knew OKC would go down the way they did. Enter the Pacers vs Heat. Money has been made for the league, the owners and if you fall into the trap, add Vegas to the list.

  3. acdc363 - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Did Jesus himself even go through this kind od pressure?

    “Jesus’ upcoming crucifixion isn’t just about our sins….its about his legacy!!”

    • gmsingh - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      Nice analogy. Hopefully by the end of game 7 we’ll have Lebron saying, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” to David Stern.

    • iknowzeroaboutsports - Jun 3, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      Dude, what are you talking about? LeBron would destroy Jesus 1-on-1. Although Jesus is certainly better than LeBron at flopping. He got up after being crucified – possibly the greatest flop of all time.

  4. blueintown - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    “Win on Monday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Miami will have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals with at least one win. ”

    Huh?

  5. packersareandwillalwaysbebetterthanthebears - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    I’ve spent a whole season reading how Miami had a second gear, how they can’t be stopped and how they are too talented to be beaten 4 times in 7 games. Indiana should have already won this series. I just hope with everything I have the Pacers win so I can see what your reasoning behind the Heat’s tragic loss is.

    • scorp16 - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:42 PM

      Yeah…Well…They kind of do have a second gear…..Not even close..

  6. money2long - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    yes, a game 7 loss might not fully shape james’ legacy , but it’d dam sure be a great summer for the hecklers i’ll tell you that.

    • mrwrightsdad - Jun 3, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      It’s always something whether “not five, not six” or “taking my talents” or how he isn’t clutch or even his hairline. Always going to be something with Lebron and his ‘critics’

  7. cantonbound13 - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    Stern will make sure the Heat win. Guaranteed.

    • aboogy123456 - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      The pacers have to know that all the calls will go against them tonight. They have to try to not let it get to them, and it’s going to be tough with the home miami crowd, but if they can calm down and play well, the pacers have a shot to win tonight and screw Stern.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:53 AM

        They are clearly the better team, but Stern is all about getting “stars” in the Finals. High ratings=$$$$$.

    • mikejd12 - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      I am now that much dumber for having even read this. This is the stupidest nonsense I have ever heard. The heat have been getting hammered with some of the worst calls I have every scene! And you haters are already blaming the refs before the game has even started…….pathetic…… Bottom line Dwayne wade was robin last year… now he is Mr. Freeze throwing up ice blocks for shots. He needs to step up its that simple.

      • aboogy123456 - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        The Heat have been getting hammered by the refs, but only when the pacers are losing in the series. It makes sense for the NBA to want to extend this series because so many people are watching, and now it also makes sense for the NBA to want the Heat in the finals, they can’t extend this series any more now that it’s game 7.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 3, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        So Diva Wade not getting ejected for a cheap shot, the flying elbow to the head if you recall. The freak doesn’t get ejected for shoving Hansboro? Do you think that was good officiating in the Pacer’s favor? Just curious how you think the Pacers have been getting the calls from the refs during the game.

    • miamatt - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Good to see your horse@#*! excuses are in June form. What does @1972sxwife have to say about this?

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 3, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        good to see you’re still classless, like your fellow bandwagoners.

    • truthbetoldforsure - Jun 3, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      Yeah if it was the case Pacers should have won in 6.

  8. aboogy123456 - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    I think the fact that the Heat are even competing for a spot in the finals shows how great lebron is for them. As much as the media wants to spin this team as an all time great, they are not. Give lebron props, but take him off the heat and they are lucky to make the playoffs, definitely would not make it in the west.

  9. romoscollarbone - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Even if they beat Indiana will they have the legs to play San Antonio come Wednesday? They could find themselves down 2-0 to the Spurs quickly, before they can even regroup.

    LeBron should’ve went to NY, at least there Stern would’ve made sure he got all the calls. It still amazes me how much guys get away with defending him, compared to MJ or even Kobe.

    • adoombray - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      Wait, what? not only does he get every single whistle he looks around incredulously when he doesn’t. LeBron’s patented “driving to the rim and getting there no matter what” is predicated on the fact that if you so much as look at him while doing it he catches the whistle. LeBron is the very definition of star player treatment and the fact that they protect him like a baby in a stroller is one of the main reasons so many people root against him.

      • brutl - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:04 AM

        That is BS! Pacers weren’t called for their first shooting foul until 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarters.
        Go look at a shot chart and all those missed shots inside. It’s not like the heat don’t know how to make layups. They were hacked all game long.
        The ft discrepancy in this series is just insane.

    • truthbetoldforsure - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      Soo many LBJ haters. They have nothing to do but hate on LBJ. I do not understand so many thumbs down. He is 28 and will win multiple championships. After his career is over he will be the best basketball player of all time. Jordan use to flop just watch the Bulls-Knicks or Bulls-Sonics.

  10. halfbaht - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Lets go pacers!

  11. pacersfan1 - Jun 3, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    If the Pacers can get up by 10 in the first the drakkar smelling heat fans will check out because they are a bunch of front runners.Leflops legacy has already been written he is the biggest flopper in the NBA. GOOOOOO!!! PACERS!!!!

    • gmsalpha - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Sort of like the Heat checked out when they were down 17 in game 6 and came back to within 4?

      • pacersfan1 - Jun 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        And they still lost. I did not say the players would check out.The heat fans will check out because they are fake.

      • flyrocket31 - Jun 3, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        they stil lost by 14 and only scored 77pts

    • truthbetoldforsure - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      MJ flop many times in his career. Watch Bulls-Knicks or Bulls-Sonics or Bulls-Pistons..

    • 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      I am a huge heat fan and like to think i am unbiased..yes our team flops alot and yes lebron has been flopping..i hate it…but you as a pacers fan CANNOT call lebron the biggest flopper of all time when the greatest pacer of all time, Reggie Miller played for your team for 18 seasons…i just had to comment on that one lol

      • pacersfan1 - Jul 10, 2013 at 7:51 PM

        I have to say you are right however Reggie was never the best player in the league.If LeBron is why does he need to flop?

  12. reasonablemindsays - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    I’ve been a LeBron “hater” for a while, but I’ve matured to the point where I understand now how hard it is to win the championship. It’s a proven fact that you need multiple HOF level superstars if you want to win multiple championships in the NBA. The Heat had LeBron and Wade is definitely a HOF level player when healthy. But this series, Wade has been hurt and LeBron is playing with a worse supporting cast than he had in Cleveland. For the Heat to win, Wade is going to need to start playing well again.

    Also, as a Sixers fan, can the owner literally fire every front office person please?!? The Bynum move was bad enough, but now we are forced to watch Paul George (who we could’ve drafted instead of Evan Turner) blossom into a star. Plus they also drafted Marreese Speights over Roy Hibbert in the 2008 draft. We could’ve had both George and Hibbert if our front office was smart!

  13. davidly - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Any word on whether he’ll receive a second flop fine?

  14. bucrightoff - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    LeBron is Cleveland bound after 2014, no doubt about it. A clearly (and rapidly) declining Wade and a softer than butter Bosh are about as bad as he had in his Cleveland days, and now the Cavs have a beavy of young talent that will get even better when LeBron enters his declining years, offering him more chances to win titles without having to do it all.

  15. xli2006 - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    No matter what happens…

    Jordan > Lebron no matter what happens. At this point you’d have to put the legacy of Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, Wilt, Duncan, prob even Magic, Larry, Russell, in front of Lebron.

    #JordanNeverFlopped

  16. HotHotHeat - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Funny how everyone forgets that the Pacers are 3-6 on the road this post season. If there was a reason they might lose tonight it’s that stat alone. Let’s not forget how much better Miami has been with Birdman and he is coming back tonight. Also the bench for Miami usually plays better at home so Miami does have a lot going for them including having Lebron.

    Anything can happen tonight but the odds are in Miami’s favor.

    @Canton – The better team will win tonight. 3-3 means Miami and Pacers are even at this point otherwise the series would be over.

  17. sportsfan18 - Jun 3, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    On this and many other sites about pro basketball, so many people talk about Stern and the league not letting the stars team lose and I don’t just mean LeBron and the Heat. For years.

    What I never hear is anything from the players, the players on the teams “being forced to lose by Stern” complaining about it.

    These players can’t keep their mouths shut about anything. Twitter, reporters etc… they are heard saying many stupid things time and time again… yet I don’t hear from a player, any players that they were made to lose by Stern.

    • mazblast - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Stern doesn’t influence the players to get his way. Why bother with five or ten or more when you can have your minions have a word with just three whose future employment is in your hands?

  18. miamatt - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Nothing left to do but to cherish the moment and root for my guys.

    Go Heat!!!

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      It’s gonna be a doozy! Good luck!

      Go Pacers!

  19. intruudir - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    LeFlop James and his mentor in the art of the flop Wade will probably get the calls tonight because that is the way the NBA has scripted it….

    And people wonder why James is so disliked…………duh……..

  20. fpstratton - Jun 3, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    A little perspective here: The Heat shouldn’t be considered a failure if they lose tonight, which I don’t think they will. They won 66 games this season, including 27 straight. They are defending champions. They have been in the finals the last two years. These are successes, not failures. What has hurt them in this series, aside from a very game and determined Indiana Pacer team, is their lack of size up front, which we all know about. LeBron James is the best player in the game, but he does need help in the playoffs, as even the great Michael Jordan did. I understand people’s annoyance with James and how he went about transferring his talents to South Beach and away from Cleveland, but that’s all over now. Let’s move on.

  21. fpstratton - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    I totally agree with miamatt. These conspiracy theories are just plain bull. How did the Dallas Mavericks getting to the championship and winning it increase TV ratings? Among that much sought after German-American Dirk Nowitzki fan demographic? Next case, please.

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