Two thousand twelve was a hell of a year for a Miami Heat fan. While it didn't feature the torrent of media speculation that accompanied the team's 2010-12 season, we certainly saw media members predict the Heat's demise during series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. Nonetheless, Miami won its second championship in franchise history in 2012, and the Heat is off to another great start.
I've cobbled together a list of the top 10 Miami Heat moments in 2012. I initially intended to make this one post, but the length forced me to chop it into two parts. This is the Internet, so hate it, love it, discuss it or create your own list. Check back soon for the second part of this series.
10. Heat stop Linsanity
Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise seems like a fleeting phenomenon now - maybe because, while a legitimate NBA player, Lin is far from an elite-level point guard - but it's nearly impossible to overstate Linsanity. He was mentioned 350 times during the 11 a.m. SportsCenter the week of February 10-16. By contrast, ESPN anchors uttered Tim Tebow's name a "mere" 154 times during the same hour of SportsCenter the week of January 7. The anchors uttered "Lin" more than "but" or "if" that week.
Lin had a great story and played for a team in the United States' biggest market. The Heat, in the midst of a dominant nine-game winning streak, played defense on Lin worthy of Gary Payton's nickname, The Glove. The whole team, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, played defense at playoff-level intensity. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole both stripped him bringing the ball up court and went in for dunks. Lin said that he had trouble simply dribbling the ball, and he finished with 1-for-11 shooting and eight turnovers. A preternaturally athletic team played hard defense, but the Heat exposed Lin in that game. He was never the same.
9. LeBron James shuts the door on Houston
The only event from the 2012-13 season on this list, this instance beat a few moments about Ray Allen -- Micky Arison breaking the news via Twitter, Allen's clutch 3s to open the season. The Houston Rockets led by eight with six minutes left, but LeBron James took control of the game. He made two 3s in the final five minutes of the game - including one, with 1:49 left, from 27 feet out. Reminiscent of the Steve Nash/Amar'e Stoudemire pick-and-roll, he found Chris Bosh for a dunk. And then with the game in the balance, he made a driving layup to give Miami a one-point lead with 18 seconds left. He defended James Harden on a last-second shot. Yes, LeBron shut the door on Houston.
8. Heat memorialize Trayvon Martin
Remember this photograph? While on a March road trip, the Heat players stood with their hands in their pockets and hoodies on. The Heat players sent a powerful message, donning the cloak of anonymity. Wearing a hoodie, Trayvon Martin was a black 17-year-old walking to his future stepmother's house with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. George Zimmerman killed him and subsequently claimed self-defense. The Sanford police department initially declined to arrest Zimmerman.
LeBron James posted the iconic photo on his Twitter page with the message #wewantjustice. At first, Martin's death transcended philosophical lines. National Review, a magazine that once opposed integration, ran a column with the headline "Al Sharpton is right." (The death turned into political fodder, Ta-Nehisi Coats argues in this brilliant journal article, after President Barack Obama spoke on the issue). The Miami Heat participated in a national outcry that eventually resulted in Florida Governor Rick Scott appointing a special prosecutor to the case who charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. While we will probably never hear any Heat player give his opinions on the Obama administration's use of drone strikes, the entire team took a stand for someone who shouldn't have died. That deserves praise.
7. Dwyane Wade drops 40 to eliminate Pacers
The Miami Heat had the chance to vanquish the Indiana Pacers, but had to do it on the road and without Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, who had hit his jumper in the previous two games of the second-round series. Indiana went up 10-2 to start the game and led 21-12 with three minutes left in the first quarter. But then Dwyane Wade scored 20 points in the second quarter, dusting off his trusty bank shot from 2006 and working efficiently in the post. Miami still trailed by two at halftime, but Miami appeared like a team ready to win a series without its third-best player. Mike Miller looked like a 70-year-old coal miner on the court, but drained four 3s. Mario Chalmers sank a buzzer-beating triple to end the third quarter with Miami up 10. And when the Pacers trimmed the deficit to six late in the fourth, LeBron James made three straight field goals without breaking a sweat. He played 45 minutes that night, but didn't show it.
6. Heat defeat Celtics in dramatic overtime game
The second meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals probably stands as the most dramatic Heat game of 2012. Celtics fans will bemoan Dwyane Wade's contact on Rajon Rondo on a late drive in overtime that went uncalled, but Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was compelling. A Boston team that looked sluggish in the second round and in Game 1 of the conference finals jumped on Miami early, and Rondo began to put together a 44-point, 10-assist, 53-minute night. Miami rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter, with amazing plays like this James block on Paul Pierce. The Celtics regained the lead in the fourth and even led by five with 3:50 left. The Heat led by four with 68 seconds left after jumpers from Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem. Then Ray Allen wound up with an open shot and tied the game in the final minute. After Rondo's drive yielded no call from an official with 1:35 left in overtime, Miami scored seven straight points. While James didn't play as well as he played in Game 6 of this series, as a pure game this meeting was superb.