Does the decision not feel like it was half of a century ago? It definitely shifted the power into the hands of the players, which in theory helped form the mid-decade Warriors, a.k.a. Kevin Durant’s safe space. It changed the face of social media, and how fans react and interact with athletes. In 2010 Twitter was just a thing and 3G was just coming around. All the sudden you have everyone (looking at you, ladies) taking selfies, hot dog beach legs, their food, and their damn pets. Everyone has an opinion, and twitter has turned into low brow meaningless hot takes, that can’t definitively be answered, like “what team will be better this year”. Cool. Thanks twitter!
Let’s unpack the 2010’s
There has been a historical discrepancy between the “Big 3” of the Celtics and the eventual Big 3 on the Heat. The Celtics were formed by a 2007 draft day trade of Ray Allen, and a month later with Kevin Garnett, linking them up with Paul Pierce, and a young Rajon Rondo, who as you can tell a decade and a half later, is still working on that smooooth jumper of his. The Celts held down the last portion of the decade thanks to their defensive scheme and execution, controlled by none other than defensive assistant Thom Thibodeau. Yes, that one. Part of the Heat’s master plans by Puppet master Pat Riley saw that the Celtics were a force (an old one, but still), and that they had three studs. Hmmmmmm.
Let’s keep in the same decade with the 2003 NBA draft. The eventual Big 3 we’re the 1st, 4th and 5th picks in that draft, sandwiching in Carmelo and some guy named Darko Milicic. (Free Darko!) Bosh was a solid All-Star for the Raptors, and Wade was putting together borderline MVP seasons, even after Shaq left in 06, even though he couldn’t knock down a shot outside 18 feet. The big news out of that decade is that LeBron had jackshit for help the entire time on the Cavs. It was bad drafting, signing the wrong free agents. He made the Cavs very good, but not great. The stage is set for the best friends to join, so it’s easier.
“Not 2, not 3, not 4…..”
There is a whole special on ESPN currently about LeBron’s announcement, and it was at the time where people had “inside” information, but still couldn’t get it out of him ahead of time. If he did that in 2020, we would know 5 days ahead of time. You might recall people burning jerseys, (at least it wasn’t their Nike’s! are people still doing that? Burning 90 dollar shoes?) and sobbing to the heavens about LeBron jumping ship. Of course, walking out with flames shooting everywhere in their first public appearance while half-jokingly claiming they win all the rings didn’t sit well with…..anybody.
My Precious Bulls
So given those three guys gobbled up all the salary cap, much like the late 90s Bulls did, the Heat had to fill out the roster with luminaries like Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, and Norris Cole. It was seeing this roster of “who the hell are you?” that made me think the Rose MVP year Bulls had a shot. Almost. That 2010-2011 Bulls team could carry out Thibs defensive orders to a T, but we’re juuuussst short on athletes or secondary scorers (Luol Deng, you were a nice player. Bless you, and whatever remains of your knee cartilage.) The Bulls kept the Heat in check for the most part defensively, but the second they put LeBron on Rose, that was that.
***Side Bar 1: Heat Roster Construction***
Chris Bosh got a lot shit as the half of “Two and a Half Men”, but Bosh was a really good player. One of the first to start the “big guy popping out for three” on occasion, skilled guy, good rebounder. Bosh and LeBron together? Prob not gonna cut it for a ring. Bosh and Wade, eh? LeBron and Wade together though still would have grabbed a title, but you add Bosh to it, you just get an buzzsaw. Now there is a thought, what if had Wade and James, but allocated Bosh’s giant ass contract and acquired two good players to fill out the rotation more? You know like borderline All-Star type of guys, like if a better Carolos Boozer existed, and find like a Mike Bibbyish sort of good PG. They’d have been fine. I bet they still get at least two. All 3 of the Big 3 in their prime, that’s just too damn much.
“If you lose your old, if you win you’re experienced”
The best or worst thing to happen to the Heat we’re taking the 2011 Mavs for granted. That Mavs team had 1990’s draft picks still being productive in their 30’s like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and of course, Dirk. Sometimes being a borderline good and a vet helps. Much like the Spurs teams the Heat would face that seemingly never aged. Maybe the reason for this is the Greg Popovich eased the minutes on his players, to extend their careers. You know, what Thibs does. (no. he doesn’t.) Those still functional Spurs teams were damned good for that very reason, as Ginobili, Duncan, and Parker, could still squeeze out elite minutes in enough spurts to let other good as hell vets like Danny Green et al be functional too. Also, there was that really young Kawhi guy. Yeah, him.
Side Bar 2: Dwyane Wade’s knees
Speaking of running guys into the ground somewhat, let’s talk about Dwyane Wade’s minutes the first ten years of his career. He came in at 21 and had those early career deep playoff runs, played Jimmy Butler/Luol Deng minutes as the sole bastion of talent on the 2000’s heat, and then going to the finals four straight years. Hell in 2013 his tenth year he was still kicking ass, but believe it or not, that was the back half of his prime. The difference between 2013 Wade and shitty 2016 on the Bulls Wade is staggering. And I guarantee you, he wouldn’t trade it back. He was an absolute monster.
“Wrap it up!”
So the Heat get rings in 2012 and 2013, and in theory should have knocked off the 2011 Mavs. Oh well. They claimed the liked wearing the “black hat” as Bill Laimbeer used to say about the late 80’s/90s Pistons that everyone hated, but at the same time, the Pistons didn’t have to deal with social media 24/7. It probably would have worn them out too. LeBron didn’t see that firestorm that his decision caused, but we’re so used to dummies on social media, greats like him tune it out. Unless of course, you are Kevin Durant, who make burner accounts to argue with fans he has never met. But hey, at least jumping teams for rings is cool now.