The Miami Heat have won two consecutive championships and yet if they do not procure a third, the experiment that began in the summer of 2010 may be considered a failure.
There are some who may not believe this, given the success that has already been achieved since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade as members of the Heat. But they, the latest collaboration to be labeled the “Big 3,” don’t see it that way. It may be the result of their individual success as professionals, having won multiple awards and the subsequent recognition that comes from being among the top players in the NBA. Those awards could have been continuously garnered had they each remained with their respective teams; their decision to unify was made on establishing a legacy based on winning multiple championships.
Through this year’s playoffs, Miami has appeared focused on procuring a title. They were the only team to sweep an opponent in an historic first round of the postseason. In the second round, they took on a team that was built specifically to defeat them. That unit, the Brooklyn Nets, was dispatched in easy fashion after just five games. On their way to a possible fourth-straight trip to the NBA Finals, what might be their toughest opponent – the Indiana Pacers – stands in their way.
The Pacers have been scrutinized severely over the last few months. They made no secret of their goal to eliminate Miami and ascend to the NBA’s throne. While a strong start to the regular season confirmed Indiana as a contender, they ended their year in disjointed fashion; that dysfunction has remained in the postseason as well. And yet, through the adversity, Indiana is exactly where they want to be – with homecourt advantage and with only the Heat standing in their way to reach the highest level of basketball competition.
One reason for the Pacers’ struggles might be their inability to cope with such lofty goals. Their psychological strength has been questioned and, more often than not, been found wanting.
Miami’s “Big 3,” however, have learned to push past that adversity and look past the challenge of a grueling regular season with their only goal, another championship, in mind. Among the many stories surrounding the Heat this year is the possibility that this version of the team may not exist for much longer. James, Wade and Bosh could be free agents this summer. Starting guard Mario Chalmers’ contract expires once this season ends. Other valuable pieces of the team – namely veterans Chris Anderson, Ray Allen and Shane Battier – could depart for greener pastures or may simply retire.
Whatever their futures hold, a third-straight title would be a worthy legacy.
So while Indiana may fall short of their goals simply to be considered among the greatest teams of this single season, Miami is looking to establish themselves among the pantheon of the NBA’s all-time best teams.
When these rivals begin what is expected to be a bloody, hard-fought battle on Sunday afternoon, they’ll both be playing for something greater than just a trip to the NBA Finals.
But only Miami, whose immediate future is so uncertain, is playing for historical greatness.