Four straight NBA Finals, two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, two regular season MVP awards, great weather, and an adoring public. LeBron James seemed to have it made in Miami, well... until the 2014 NBA Finals where everything went awry. Facing elimination LeBron’s body language warped, despite a pre-game speech to his teammates where he expressed to them to "Follow his lead." Nobody did, and Miami blew a 20-point lead to be eliminated. I turned to a friend (a fellow Heat fan), and asked "Do you think he might leave?" I was met with a, "No way, everyone can just come to him". I calmed down, accepted defeat and got ready for LeBron's revenge on the Spurs never considering at the time that it might come in a uniform that wasn't black and red.
Admittedly up until a week ago, I couldn't even fathom the possibility of LeBron’s departure. I felt that despite the roster showing its age, a simple re-tooling during the off-season would put Miami back in contention, and in a favorable position to win another NBA championship. The off-season launched with LeBron opting out of his contract, something I wholeheartedly expected, but then everything slowed down and basketball enthusiasts everywhere were met with silence.
Sure, reports surfaced that LeBron’s agent was meeting with other teams, but I was positive that LeBron was just waiting on Pat Riley to make some moves. During this time, Twitter went psycho. Fake accounts surfaced, cupcake bakeries, and personal trainers claimed to have inside knowledge on LeBron’s future plans, and I began to worry. That was until Thursday night when LeBron and Wade took a plane ride back to Miami, and I was met with false hope. I awoke on Friday morning with confidence, and by midday I was greeted with the news that has certainly spawned a surplus of hatred for "The King" in South Florida.
"I’m coming home".
I couldn’t believe it, but I tried to handle the news in the most professional method possible Tweeting minutes after the announcement.
Thanks for the run LeBron, it's been a fun four years.— Brandon Di Perno (@Brandon_DiPerno) July 11, 2014
The truth is no matter how bitter I’ve been since "The Departure" occurred, I understand LeBron James’ reasoning from a human perspective. LeBron James has two sons, and he’s going to have a daughter soon. His reasoning to raise his family in his hometown, a place he knows and adores, is completely justified. He’s back where it all started for him, and I’m happy for him. No real Miami Heat fan in their right mind should be angry at LeBron James. At the end of the day, he brought us two championships and four great years. But we have every right to be disappointed. LeBron's departure doesn't justify vandalism, or insubordination. As passionate as we are about sports, a man's choice to resume his profession in another city, hardly has an effect on our ongoing personal lives.
Yes he left, but so did Shaq and even Alonzo at one point (although under different circumstances). When Miami first attained LeBron I was shocked and ecstatic. That morning (before the decision) of the 2010 free agency I was content to hear we had acquired Chris Bosh, and was curious to see how Dwyane Wade played off of his presence. Getting LeBron was surreal, however for some reason I always considered him a rental, and to LeBron, Miami was just a college replacement. For four years, I cheered on LeBron and as aforementioned it was a fun run, with its own highs and lows. Nevertheless, I still feel as if LeBron’s departure from Miami is an extremely poor basketball decision. Say what you will about Dwyane Wade, Miami with LeBron James was a mere few role players away from another championship.
A championship core is extremely difficult to craft, and Pat Riley created something truly spectacular. The chemistry Miami obtained with LeBron on the team was palpating, and it’s a shame that we’ll never get to see Dwyane throw another fast break alley oop to LeBron. What Miami’s veterans had was playoff, and championship experience, the ability to push through pressure situations and more often than not come out on top. The Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James on the roster only have three active players who have reached the postseason (LeBron, Brendan Haywood, Anderson Varejao). In their young players they have limitless potential, however to truly be great mistakes have to happen, and adjustments subsequently made.
I wish the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James the best of luck, but like many Heat fans I'm in the same situation as I was in 2003 when I started watching NBA basketball, cheering for LeBron-less Miami Heat in Wade county. For the Heat fans that remain (although our numbers are significantly lacking since yesterday) I urge you to remain strong and louder than ever. Pat Riley, took into account the possibility of LeBron leaving, and has already taken the steps to keeping our team by re-signing Chris Bosh, and relentlessly pursuing Luol Deng.
What makes sports great are the stories produced through unforeseeable circumstance, and I have no doubt that this is just the start of another great chapter in the Miami Heat’s spectacular legacy.