Since LeBron James arrived with his hand-picked group of mercenaries four years ago, the Miami Heat have appeared in every NBA Finals. This week they are gunning for not one, not two, but three world championships in their rematch with the San Antonio Spurs.
Isn’t this fun?
Remember what James said in that obnoxious pep rally four years ago shortly after he, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade signed free agent contracts with the Heat? He was asked how many championships they could win, and he said, “Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.”
It seemed preposterous at the time. Not so much now.
Isn't that great.
I hope you picked up on the sarcasm. Sorry, but I still find it difficult to root for James (I call him James; I think I am the only one in the world who is not on a first-name basis with him). I still can’t root for a guy who circumvented the system and took the easy path.
Which is what he did and what seems largely forgotten now.
By arranging the Bosh-Wade-James triumvirate in Miami, James stacked the deck so he could win a championship — or eight of them, if he proves prophetic. Otherwise, he would probably still be searching for his first ring.
When he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he and his teammates advanced to the playoffs five times in seven years, resulting in three second-round exits, a loss in the conference finals, and a loss in the NBA Finals. After failing to return to the NBA Finals three straight years — after yet another second-round exit — he hand-picked his new team and “took his talents to South Beach." Imagine picking your team on the playground and getting the first three picks; how fair is that?
So here we are, the Heat are shoo-ins to make the NBA Finals annually. They can coast through the regular season — as they did this year — and still win a championship.
Wake me when it’s over.
Michael Jordan, the player to whom James is most often compared, didn’t win a championship his first six seasons in the league, but he didn’t call Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and arrange to take their talents to the same team. If you can’t beat ‘em, you don’t join ‘em; you just keep working until you do. Jordan won six championships. If you argue that James needed a better supporting cast in Cleveland and was forced to go somewhere else to get it, it’s fair to say Jordan faced the same situation in his early years with the Bulls.
Bird didn’t seek another team to win a championship; he willed his team to a championship — three times. He never played for another team.
Johnson played for the Lakers his entire 13-year career; he won five championships.
Kobe Bryant has played for only one team and has five championships.
Tim Duncan (four rings), David Robinson (two rings), Tony Parker (three rings) and Manu Ginobili (three rings) have played for only one team — the Spurs.
Jerry West — the man on the NBA logo — played his entire career for the Lakers. He stuck with the Lakers even though he won only one ring.
Bill Russell: One team, 11 championships.
Dirk Nowitzki: One team, one championship.
James Worthy: One team, three championships.
John Stockton, Reggie Miller and Elgin Baylor all played for one team and never won a championship. There was no shame in that. They were all warriors and great players who worked to make their own teams contenders.
James' championships come with an asterisk — * Had to create an All-Star team to win.
The James-Bosh-Wade juggernaut could dominate the NBA for years unless they decide to take their talents elsewhere. In four years, they have produced a win-loss record of 224-88 in the regular season and 59-25 in the playoffs, which means they win seven of every 10 games. At 47 games, they are closing in on an NBA record for consecutive playoff games without consecutive losses (54 for 1962-66 Celtics).
Ironically, the Heat’s finals opponent has built its teams in a sharply contrasting way over the years. The Spurs draft and retain their own players — namely Robinson, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, who have built their own team in San Antonio rather than go elsewhere. They have reached the NBA Finals six times in 15 years and won four championships. They’ve done it the right way.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org