There is still residue from July 11th, 2014.
For those who don't remember what this date represents, it's the moment the ride with The King ended. The day of the letter and in most parts of the country, the day LeBron James made his triumphant return to his roots in Cleveland. Over 5 months later while most of the talk surrounding James's departure has cooled off in South Florida, with the recent struggles the Miami Heat have experienced with key injuries to Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts, to losing games to inferior opponents like the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, it's an honest reminder how much things have changed post LeBron.
And yet Heat fans should enter the Christmas battle vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers with a level of appreciation rather than vitriol.
I don't expect the reaction from the Miami fan base on Thursday afternoon to reach not even a quarter of the level James and the rest of the Heat organization faced in 2010 when Miami made their first appearance post Decision to a angry mob in Cleveland. But there is a strong sense that factions of the Heat fan base still remain hurt and extremely angry at the way this summer's turn of events went down. From Cavs owner Dan Gilbert flying on Miami's turf to recruit and clear the air with James to Pat Riley being forced to fly to Las Vegas in a last gasp effort to retain the King when many assume that his mind was made up days, weeks and possibly months leading up to that July 11th letter issued by the great Lee Jenkins of Sports illustrated.
I for one totally understand all of that.
Yet that doesn't change the last 4 years and what was accomplished.
Say what you want. Feel how you feel. The fact is with LeBron James in tow and leading the charge, the Miami Heat accomplished something only two, count them, TWO franchises have ever done in this league's history by appearing in four straight NBA Finals (winning two). I'd imagine regardless of how any Heat fan feels about LeBron James present day won't take back the adventure that was 2010-2014.
I'd also imagine gun to their head, they wouldn't for a second trade back the 2012 and 2013 NBA titles that were won mostly because of him. The pots and pans celebrations in the inner city that proceeded those accomplishments. The parades on Biscayne Blvd. Fans not even for a second would take those back.
From the "Big 3" grandiose introduction (how ever negative it was received nationally) to the over analyzing nature of the media dubbing EVERY game must watch TV and a indictment on the team should they lose any game, to the threat of breaking up of the blueprints countless times (God I miss those first 2 seasons) from the national media, it was ride that not only ever experienced by the South Florida sports community, but also to a large degree the national .
This team was loved, hated, pick and prodded daily. They were relevant. They mattered. And South Florida for four glorious, adventurous years were at the epicenter of the sports universe.
That in itself should give the reaction of appreciation.
I expect Heat fans for the most part Christmas day to cheer LeBron pre-game then boo during the contest. It's only the right thing. In fact whatever feeling or ill will Micky Arison or Pat Riley may harbor toward LeBron James today, they are the bigger men at the end of the day as they have tributes planned for both James and city of Miami lifer (current Cavalier) James Jones.
Dwayne Wade has even said on record that LeBron and himself remain tight as ever and that he hopes the fan base will react the correct way with class as he reminded us in a recent interview with Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick that "the man helped take us to places we've only been once before he got here"
For a city thats always championship starved in all sports, it should serve as a reminder in looking at the larger picture of the LeBron era and what was accomplished here especially acquiring the best player in the league IN HIS PRIME!!
And it's my hope fans will even for a moment, revel in that.