Monday, June 13

Not 2. Not 3. Not 4. Not 5. Not 6. Not 7.

I honestly don't think I've ever experienced this much schadenfreude in my entire sporting life, and yes, I'm saying this just four short months after experiencing the joy and relief of watching the steelers lose in the Super Bowl. Yes, sports fans, the Miami Heat's 2011 season is over, they are not the NBA Champions, and the whole thing feels very good to this Cavaliers fan. Hey, anyone want to watch the Heat's preseason championship dance party again? It's way more funny now that Dirk and His Merry Mavericks have dispatched the Three Egos.

That was fun!

There's no doubt that a lot of my enthusiasm for the result of this year's NBA Finals was simply enjoyment at watching the Heat's sinister ploy fall short - how else to explain Cleveland ranking as the #3 market for this year's Finals. But on the other hand, big congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks. As someone who's never seen one of his Cleveland teams win it all, I loathe dynasties and I love seeing players and fans celebrate their first championships. Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Rick Carlisle - those are all reasonably likeable individuals who finally got a taste at glory, and it's fun to see their hard work rewarded. Especially Dirk - it's hard to think of a superstar who's gotten more unfair criticism over the years, with the possible exception in recent years of, yes, #6 who plays for his Finals opponent. Watching Dirk try to stay in the moment as the Mavericks iced the title was amazing - can you imagine working that hard for 20 years of your life and having your ultimate goal realized fully? Remarkable. Every time I watch another fan's team hoist the sport's most coveted hardware, year after year, there's a twinge of disappointment as I realize that once again it's not my club, but this time I just genuinely felt happy for the Mavs. Would anyone have felt happy had the Heat gone on to win?

In addition to the good feelings inspired by the Mavericks' victory, there is, naturally, the delight that I have no compunction in taking in watching the Miami Heat lose. (Before I forget, check out the Twitter hashtag #heatlockerroomplaylist Good times. My choice is, simply, Beck's "Loser.") I just haven't ever hated a team quite like I hate the Miami Heat - Wade's endless flying to the hoop for bailout calls, LeBron's flopping, Bosh's posing, the whole team's constant bitching about calls, their irksome defiance and lack of self-awareness, the Decision, the Welcome Party - it's simply the least likeable team in my sports memory. Considering how flaky Miami "fans" are and how much antagonism the Heat's unholy alliance generated, it's safe to say that fewer people are mourning this championship round loss than any I can recall.

It's also terrific the way in which the Heat managed to bungle their first shot at a ring post-Decision. Do not forget this: they should have won this series. The key moment came back in Game 2: if Dwyane Wade could have checked his ego even slightly in Game 2 instead of preening with his hand in the air in front of Dallas' bench for three seconds after hitting that three-pointer, Dallas doesn't get inspired for their epic comeback, and today we'd be lamenting the bad guys winning. It really is that simple. Dallas almost certainly would not have rallied from down 2-0. For as great as he played, and even with a previous championship to fall back on, it has to eat at Wade that his ego cost Miami a title this year. That's assuming he realizes these facts, which is not a given.

Consider what else transpired to allow Dallas to prevail in later games. LeBron disappeared completely in Game 4 and for stretches in 5 and 6 as well. I've seen hundreds of that guy's games, and very seldom did I ever have to wonder whether or not he was on the floor, as I did for the first time during Game 5 vs Boston a year ago and many times in this series. If that cat even sort of plays hard in the closing period of Game 4, maybe scores one more basket, Dallas doesn't win, Miami goes up 3-1, and probably closes it out last night.

Then we have LeBron and Wade's hilarious antics before Game 5, where they mocked Nowitzki's Game 4 illness in their pregame tunnel walk. Such comedy! Can we get LeBron back on SNL? Can he and Wade co-host? I wonder what sort of routines they're working on today - I bet LeBron has developed a spot-on impersonation of Nowitzki hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy and accepting the Finals MVP award on Miami's home floor. Can we get a video of that? No, what they did before Game 5 wasn't the worst thing in the world (again, see video above for the actual worst thing), but it was really pathetic and uncalled for. Nowitzki wisely took the high road, asking his teammates not to join the fray and responding only with a short, pointed statement about the eventual Finals runners-up being "a little childish, a little ignorant" before going about his business and winning the NBA. (Nowitzki's self-restraint in not rubbing the victory in the Heat's collective faces is as impressive as his high-arcing jumpers - I'm not even trying to hold back and they haven't said a thing about me). Wade made himself look even dumber after the incident by insinuating that there's nothing heroic or impressive about playing hurt, even though Wade used to have those commercials bragging about how he played hurt. There guys' sense of self-perspective is incredibly shallow.

Yet there are those who would have us forgive and forget with LeBron. Noted sportswriter/jerk "Buzz" Bissinger wrote an ill-timed and ill-titled piece on the Daily Beast where he talks of #6's "vindication" and blasts Cleveland fans who still want(ed) to see the Heat go down in flames (pun intended):

The waves of fans who still hate him need to give it a rest. The fans of Cleveland in particular have to seriously get a life. They were right in feeling terribly shunned. But it’s over now. The continued whining has become noxiously pathetic. And how good a sports town is Cleveland anyway when the Indians, first in the American League Central by five games, have an average attendance in the bottom five of Major League Baseball?
When you're someone who writes about sports professionally, you simply don't have the right to tell sports fans, the people who make your work viable, to "get a life," nor call me "noxiously pathetic." We have our lives, thanks very much, and a part of those lives is sports, and we're well within our bounds to oppose the Heat's march to the Finals. Who's "whining," anyway, other than the Heat every single time any infraction is called against them? What are we supposed to do, just wave the white flag and start supporting the Heat? The postscript dig on Tribe fans is moronic as well - it's a small market in a depressed economy with two years of last-place-caliber play eroding at season-ticket sales, and you know it.

No matter what ends up being written about the Mavericks' true vindication, or the six games of great basketball played in this year's Finals, by far the most compelling angle remains one LeBron Raymone James. As usual, Brian Windhorst has the best inside take on the situation, in a piece filled with some eyebrow-raising quotes from the King hisself, including a postgame Twitter missive:

The Greater Man upstairs know [sic] when it's my time. Right now isn't the time.
This is as wrong as it is cowardly. You and your team just didn't play well enough and Dallas beat you. There's no "greater man," no time. You just didn't play well enough. Take some responsibility, would you?

But the real gem is his childish, defensive jab at his critics:

All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.
I've heard WWE Superstars say less inflammatory things about fans than this. Did The Rock pen this gleefully defiant anti-spectator bomb? Really, #6, that's where you want to go, playing the "I Have a Better Life Than You" card? You're right, LeBron, I did wake up today with the same life and personal problems as yesterday, minus a rather small one. And that's the thing - the NBA really isn't that important to us as humans like it is to you. The failure of the 2011 Heat is fun, but it doesn't define us. LeBron, like a horde of other national commentators, have grossly overstated how much this means to people. Yeah, it's cool, but we still have our lives, and most of us don't have to live with the burden of turning our backs on an entire city, failing in our most public professional moment, or pompously calling out those less athletically and financially gifted than us. Enjoy your summer.


Personal Home Inspector said...

Just because Lebron James does not have a ring does not make Kobe or anyone else better than him, one man can't win a championship, Kobe was lucky to get drafted to the Lakers where everyone on that team is a good player, you guys troll Lebron all day about him not having a ring, but hell he is one of the best in the NBA, I am a heat fan but also a mavericks fan Good job Mavs, both team works hard for the finals, surely they did their best, and in every game, there is only one team standing but it doesn’t mean that the other one is not worth it, but this is the reality, there is winner and there is a loser. Thanks for sharing this.

Figgs said...

Well put, Andy. I think this series made it pretty obvious that God hates LeBron James, and loves Jason Terry, and that is the sole reason why Dallas won. Let's hope he doesn't change his mind next year.

On to PHI - no one is saying that #6 isn't a good player because he doesn't have a ring. He's super talented, we all get that. While I agree that champoionships may not be the lone factor in whether a player is better or not, it does show how successful a player is. Kobe, Jordan, Dirk, Duncan, ect. have all had more SUCCESSFUL NBA careers than #6 thus far, and I don't think anyone could really argue that. Also, that key to the right of the coma, it's a period, not a virus. It's okay to use it.

Andy said...

Thanks for taking care of that, Figgs. PHI clearly didn't read anything I wrote, as you pointed out. I felt like I needed to chime in on this one too:

I am a heat fan but also a mavericks fan
This makes no sense. You're either one of these, or none.