Lynne Sladky, Associated Press
We'll miss the Heat as we knew them. Before they were full of holes, weaknesses. Most of all, they were filled with questions.
Questions are like blood to the sharks that are "experts," whether it's the guys in the press box or the dudes on the couch. Everyone had something to say about Miami, most of it about what they couldn't do or shouldn't have done.
What will we say now?
Nothing, unless it's a positive case study on how good they are. The year-round criticisms, questioning, speculating, all of that can be put to rest.
Really, what more can anyone ask of them? More importantly, what more can we possibly ask of LeBron James?
We asked him to develop a decent jumper. If you saw the fourth quarter of Game 7, you know he answered and then some.
We asked the prematurely anointed King to step up when it mattered most. What can matter more than an NBA Finals Game 7, in which the margin entering the fourth quarter was a single point?
James in that fourth quarter: nine points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals.
Finally, we wanted James to be the best against the best. Tim Duncan, a four-time NBA champion and arguably the best power forward of all time, ended up leaving LeBron's court with a piece of Heat celebration confetti stuck to his bowed, defeated head.
It's not just LeBron that's exempt, now, either. As a team, the Heat are officially a success after the overhyped summer of 2010. Three consecutive Finals appearances. Back-to-back NBA championships.
Even if the Heat's Big Three disbands a year from now via free agency, Miami ends up a winner. They gambled everything in 2010, went all in on The Decision, pinned their hopes on LeBron fulfilling his ridiculous potential, on Wade taking a backseat, on Bosh crouching in the trunk.
They gambled all that, suffered well-deserved scrutiny for it and came out on top. Twice.
They proved they could play together, proved they could win together. Everything for Miami from here on out is gravy. 2013 proved 2012 wasn't a fluke, cemented this team as the dominant force for at least one fifth of a decade. At worst, the Heat are on par with the storied Bad Boy Pistons or mid-90s Rockets.
James and Bosh's respective old teams would giddily accept what Miami suffered, and then some, to sniff their 2011 failure, let alone the consecutive successes that followed. Ditto for every other Eastern Conference team the last three seasons.
Old-school supporters can still call Miami a quick fix. Pundits can say Wade took (at least) a step back. Critics can crow that Bosh was never an All-NBA forward to begin with.
The Heat can look right back at them, flash their jewelry, and say nothing back.
Because now, finally, there's nothing left to answer.
Matt Petersen is the sports web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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