Pat Riley once said, "There's winning, and there's misery."
After back-to-back years of winning, parades, pots and pans, parties, T-shirts, and jubilation, Miami Heat fans are on the miserable side of things this morning.
And while this NBA Finals loss stings, it's not as bad as the hurt we all felt after the 2011 Finals when the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks -- who were not the better team, all told.
Chin up, Heat fans. We lost to a team that, frankly, no one was beating. This Spurs team was unprecedented in the way it dismantled everyone else (seriously, look up the numbers for these playoffs). Kudos to them. No shame in losing to that juggernaut.
Still, it sucks, and the Haters are out in force today after having to eat it for the past two seasons.
But buck up, dammit! There are some things to feel good about this morning!
Here are the Top Five reasons every Heat fan should keep his or her head up going forward this summer:
Think about that for a minute and soak it in. Four straight NBA Finals appearances. That's pretty much unheard-of (at least in this day and age). Heat fans have been gloriously sleep-deprived for four straight Junes, watching their team play for the Larry O'Brien trophy while all the rest of the NBA's fan bases could do watch as their teams got plowed through, obliterated, and destroyed.
Of the 30 NBA teams, only 17 have won an NBA championship in the league's long history. The Miami Heat is among that group.
Among those 17, only ten have won multiple championships. The Heat is among that elite group.
And among that elite group, the Miami Heat is one of just six teams that have ever won back-to-back NBA championships.
It's rare and it's difficult to win an NBA title. This Heat team has been to the mountain four straight times, coming out on top twice.
The Heat also was part of what many call the greatest Finals ever played when it went up against the Spurs in 2013 -- and won.
There's also this: Game 6, The Shot.
All told, that's pretty damned special.
He's Michael Jordan mixed with Magic Johnson. The reincarnation of Oscar Robertson -- only bigger, stronger, and faster.
He's a triple-double machine with an insane shooting efficiency and an ability to wreck defenses and rims alike.
He's the perfect basketball machine and is hailed as an on-court genius -- a human basketball analytic.
A four-time MVP winner (so far), two time-gold medalist, two-time champion (so far), and two-time NBA Finals MVP (so far), LeBron James is a once-in-a-generation player and will end his career as a Top Three all-time great.
And we're watching him play for our team in his prime.
Barring an injury or LeBron James signing elsewhere, there's no reason the Miami Heat won't be back in the Finals come June of 2015.
Despite what we saw against the Spurs, they remain head and shoulders better than pretty much every other team -- particularly in the East.
Immediately following the Finals loss, Vegas put the Heat right back on top as the early favorite to win it all next season, giving it 5-2, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio at 7-1. The next closest Eastern Conference teams are the Pacers and Bulls, each getting 15-1 odds.
The Heat isn't done. This is a team with the tools, the resources, and the man who knows how to retool and regroup.
The Heat has a lot of decisions to make in the offseason and, of course, none bigger than what the Big 3 plan on doing.
LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh can opt out of their current contracts and resign. From there, the front office can figure out ways to make their contracts fit into what they want to do, while bringing in more help and upgrading certain positions.
From there, they can make a run at a solid player, like Raptors' point guard Kyle Lowry or, yes, even make a go at Carmelo Anthony.
There are a lot of moving parts, and things begin and end with the Big 3. But Pat Riley has proven again and again that he can pull off the right moves and bring in the right pieces to retool.
The offseason will be just as intriguing as the playoffs.
Yes, LeBron was the best player in these Finals (yes, even better than MVP Kawhi Leonard). And yes, he was basically doing it all by himself after Dwyane Wade morphed into just a torso with sneakers, Chris Bosh became invisible, and Mario Chalmers played basketball like an old man pees. And yes, the media is going to talk and talk and talk about how LeBron is going back to Cleveland because they have the number-one pick in the draft or going to the Knicks because Ha. Ha. Ha. OK.
The reality is this: There is no other franchise out there that will offer what the Heat has given LeBron since 2011. He has a coach he trusts in Erik Spoelstra, an ownership that genuinely cares for him and his family, and a structure that has proven works with Bosh, Wade, and solid players around him. Leaving Miami would mean having to start all over. Cleveland is not an option, because LeBron doesn't have the time to try to teach young players to play at a championship level. And other teams don't work because they don;t have the coaching structure and overall trust he has in Miami.
No other team offers him players who are ready to make a run at a title quite like the team he just went to four straight with.
LeBron is smack-in-the-middle of his prime, and the Heat offers him the absolute best chance to keep playing well into May and June year after year. You can try to shoehorn a scenario that would place him elsewhere. But when it comes down to it, no other team offers him the chance to win like the Heat.
Moreover, his family loves Miami. His wife and kids are ensconced in South Florida living. His wife even owns her own business in Miami.
In other words, sure, LeBron leaving the Heat is a possibility... but it would take a very major circumstance to pry him away from this team. Simply wanting it to fit into a narrative isn't enough. Not when we're dealing with reality.
He's not going anywhere.
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