Living well is the best revenge.
LeBron James became a villain of sorts when he made The Decision to join the Miami Heat as a free agent. But the heel label just doesn’t stick very well. James has shown tremendous grace under pressure, working diligently on improving his game instead of resting on his MVP laurels. Now King James has two championship rings and an even bigger smile than usual.
Two won’t do. The pressure remains squarely on LeBron to take Miami back to the Promised Land – it was James, after all, who light-heartedly proclaimed “not two, not three…” when he was introduced to Heat fans back in 2010. But winning any one title is difficult enough; this year, the NBA Futures market has Miami headband-and-shoulders above the rest of the league at 19-10. That’s still nearly 2-1 against a complete Heat three-peat.
The Big One
When James was first trotted out in Miami, he was part of the New World Order of the NBA: the “Big Three” stable of James, fellow newcomer Chris Bosh, and incumbent MVP Dwayne Wade. It didn’t take long for people to start ignoring Bosh, who had no chance of putting up the same numbers in South Florida that he did while carrying the Toronto Raptors. And now the clock is ticking on Wade’s career at age 31.
Every stable falls apart at some point. That point for Miami fans could be Summer 2014, when the Big Three are set to become free agents again. Heat supporters are worried that anything short of a title will cause James to skip town, maybe for the Los Angeles Lakers, maybe to go back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even a third title might not be enough to keep the good times rolling.
So who wants to buy this beat-up old jalopy of an NBA team? Not enough people, apparently. Despite all the starpower and all the success on the floor, the Heat outperformed the NBA betting public’s expectations last year. Here are the records for each of the three seasons The Big Three have played together:
2010-11: 58-24 SU, 40-41-1 ATS
2011-12: 46-20 SU, 32-34 ATS
2012-13: 66-16 SU, 46-36 ATS
That’s an amazing jump in profitability for a championship team. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls weren’t able to beat up the NBA odds like that. But the 1993 Bulls weren’t constructed the same way as the 2013 Heat. Jordan was drafted by Chicago in 1984, while Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant joined via the draft three years later. The Bulls were both deep and talented by the time they were winning championships in the early ‘90s. Miami? Not so much.
Let’s take a moment to consider the evolution in Miami’s supporting cast over the last three years. The Big Three had to take pay cuts in 2010 to fit under the (soft) salary cap; that left major minutes going to role players like James Jones and Joel Anthony. One year later, the Heat were able to give Jones’ spot to Shane Battier and win a championship. Two years later, they had Chris Andersen playing instead of Anthony, not to mention Game 6 playoff savior Ray Allen.
If the Heat are going to keep defying the NBA odds in 2014, it’ll be because of the addition of another inexpensive free agent: Greg Oden. The No. 1 overall pick in 2007 has come out of retirement after three years away from the game, hoping that his third microfracture knee surgery will be the charm. Miami hasn’t added anyone else of note as we go to press, and Mike Miller was amnestied, so it’s probably back to near .500 ATS for the Heat if Oden can’t contribute. Unless all those tanking teams just hand the money over.Join the discussion on the upcoming 2013-14 NBA season on SBRForum's basketball message boards!