MIAMI—Surely by the time you read this, you have already heard the news. LeBron James is a Miami Heat. South Beach rejoices and all of Cleveland weeps.
Surely the LeBron/D-Wade/Bosh combination is good enough to dominate the NBA next year. In fact all the next regular season is, is just going to be a coronation parade for Miami, no? They've basically already dethroned Los Angeles as NBA champions, right? Or have they?
The announcement by LeBron on the July 8th night has done many things. It has sprung hope in the hearts of Heat fans. It has smothered the faith of Cavs. And it has raised some serious questions. What exactly does this union for superstars mean for the Heat? How about for the League itself? And what does this mean for the Cleveland Cavaliers?
On paper, the grouping of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh is one of the best ever. They are like the Celtics big three ( Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) except that Miami's trio is younger and more skillful than that of Boston's.
On paper, no other team can match the star power the Heat now have. Not the Celtics, not the Magic, not the Suns and not even the Lakers. But how often do things work out on paper?
The Heat are going to be good. Really good in fact, but before we anoint them the 2010-11 champions let us consider a few points. First, there is a colossal difference between this Big Three and the other successful Big Threes in the history of the NBA. From Larry Bird/ Kevin McHale/ Robert Parrish to Allen/Garnett/ Pierce, there has never been a collection of players with a superstar mindset like Miami now has. Each of the other examples have had a leader and the other two, knew that they were subordinate to him.
On the Celtics '80s teams: Larry Bird was the leader of the team. McHale and Parrish didn't question his authority, they followed. In Los Angeles, during the same time, Magic Johnson was the leader of the Lakers while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy followed.
Even on present day teams, San Antonio's leader is Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili fallow. Boston's leader is Pierce while Garnett and Allen fallow. Successful Big Three's are never a three-headed dragon. They are more like a King's court, where one player is on top, the other two supports him and the remaining six guys on the team execute their designated rolls to perfection. No one gripes, they just roll along, like a well-oiled machine.
This is not the case in South Beach. LeBron and Bosh where both the head honchos in their previous stops, Cleveland and Toronto respectively, while Wade was the unquestioned leader of the Heat. Wade has now welcomed King James and Chris Bosh into his court. And from what LeBron said, during the interview of him after he made his announcement, it didn't sound like he was ready to step into the back seat.
"I don't see it like sharing," James said. "I see it more like we are all going to get our own shares in the spotlight."
But only one player can get the ball in their hands when the spotlight is on, and the game clock is dwindling. Who gets the ball when a game is close? Who takes that shot?
Since 2003, when the lights were on and the stage was set, it was Dwayne Wade that stepped boldly into the spotlight. It is an enticing stage that, once you have stood in the center ring, is hard to leave. Who will be forced to step away from the spotlight? Will Wade willingly cede the stage to LeBron or will it be LeBron the gives it to Wade? LeBron through this process has not shown that he is ready to surrender the lead role. Neither has Wade.
And Wade shouldn't. Though LeBron has accomplished so many great things, Wade has ascended to the level, LeBron never has-Wade has been an NBA champion. Wade has constantly sunk the big shots; in fact Wade actually has an effective jump-shot. Wade has proven that on the biggest stages he thrives. While LeBron's ducked away from it, with the chief example being his performance at the end of the Eastern Semi-Finals against Celtics.
How will the conversation go down on the Heat bench, as crunch time looms? Can the egos of Wade and James be suppressed and the well-oiled machine roll on to the NBA promised land or will the egos collide and implode a promising team. While egos have been overcome and become champions (Celtics, Lakers, Spurs) they have also crushed teams. It happened when George McGinnis and Julius Erving teamed up in Philadelphia in the late 70's. It happened again to post three-peat Lakers of the mid 2000's, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal stopped co-existing.
Along with the potential clash of superstars, the 2010-11 Heat face the other profound problem that they may not even be the best team on the eastern seaboard, let alone the Eastern Conference. Boston is still the defending conference champions and have an excellent combination of starters and roll players. The Celtics also have another emerging superstar in Point Guard of Rajon Rondo. The Heat's Florida neighbors, the Orlando Magic, may have the most fluid mixture of young veteran talent in the Eastern Conference and their rotation can reliably go nine players deep.
The Heat however, have only eight players agreed to play for them in October, three of which are second-round picks. Granted, they now have an ESPN dubbed "Super team", and quality veterans will leap to join take the veteran's minimum to join the roster; but they still have to wait and see who what talent will surround LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh. Quickly thrown together teams have rarely been successful in the NBA.
The rewards of this union could be vast for the Heat, but the other side could be disastrous. In any event, at least they aren't the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight.
Once again, Cleveland has had their hearts ripped out. Once again they had to watch, on national television as all hope disappeared from their eyes. Yes, Chicago, New York and New Jersey risked a lot to land LeBron, but none risked everything on landing the King like Cleveland did. Not risked becoming completely irrelevant like Cleveland did.
But it happened-LeBron is gone and the Cavaliers will no longer be talked about as contenders in the east. The Cavaliers will no longer be talked about, period. They are the biggest losers in this deal. LeBron could have, single-handedly sustained his hometown team, but choose not to do so.
Pacer's fans imagine how it would have felt if Reggie Miller, bid Indy adieu and left after the 2000 NBA finals to play for the Bulls. Colt's fans imagine if before the 2006 Super Bowl season, Peyton Manning hopped on a one-way flight to Miami, because he saw greener pastures on South Beach. This is how Clevelanders feel tonight. Their star just left. He just left for the glitter of South Beach and the center stage light that he vows to share with Dwayne Wade.
Maybe he quest will be successful. Maybe Wade and Bosh will help place a ring on the King's finger. And when they do, South Beach will rejoice. And as they do, maybe they can take a pause and offer Cleveland a tissue, as Cleveland weeps into the night.