It’s that time of the year again - the long awaited NBA All-Star Weekend. What may appear as an insignificant exhibition in the grand scheme of things can actually carry long-term implications and NBA teams are aware of this.
The influence of social media in today’s game is unprecedented in any era, evident every year during NBA All-Star Weekend. For example, one of the biggest storylines during the 2018-2019 season was the theory that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were scheming to team up during 2019 free agency. Amidst these rumors, the two were seen hanging out all throughout the 2019 All-Star break, whether it was in the tunnels, playing one-on-one, or the fact that Kyrie was one of the only All-Stars to stay behind after the game to watch KD win the 2019 All-Star MVP award. Sure enough, KD and Kyrie both elected to sign with the Brooklyn Nets this past summer, confirming the media frenzy that surrounded them last season.
This upcoming All-Star break marks a very crucial one for the Miami Heat for several reasons. While many teams’ fan bases have had the luxury of looking forward to All-Star Weekend to watch their team represented, that hasn’t exactly been the case for Heat fans in recent years. Other than Dwyane Wade being added to the 2019 All-Star Game due to his retirement tour and Goran Dragic being named an injury replacement All-Star in 2018, the Miami Heat haven’t had a single All-Star representing the team since the 2015-2016 season.
That’s four years now that Miami has gone without a single first ballot All-Star on the roster. Not only was this downright torturous for Heat fans to endure, but it also speaks volumes about the coaching genius of Erik Spoelstra that he has been able to consistently compete for the playoffs with this roster. This competitive “Heat culture” is well-known throughout the league, and it is just one factor that has always made Miami one of the most attractive free agent destinations. Jimmy Butler, the walking emblem of said Heat culture, took notice of how Miami has operated over the last few seasons and decided to join the Heat in free agency this past summer.
The four-team trade that brought Jimmy Butler to Miami and sent Hassan Whiteside to Portland also, in effect, created the opportunity that Bam Adebayo needed to show off his full arsenal. Miami was able to surpass everyone’s preseason expectations and were rightfully rewarded by the fans, coaches, and media during All-Star voting as both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were selected as 2020 All-Stars. Miami now has not one, but two All-Stars after suffering a four-year drought without any.
With Jimmy Buckets at the helm and Bam Adebayo undeniably one of the NBA’s most improved players this season, elite defenders and shooters everywhere you look, a Hall of Fame level coach in Erik Spoelstra, and a system/culture spearheaded by Pat Riley, the Miami Heat sit at 4th in the East and look to be a legitimate Eastern Conference contender. The NBA has awarded the Heat handsomely with a variety of All-Star event inclusions. In addition to Jimmy Butler and Adebayo being named All-Stars, Derrick Jones Jr. will compete in the dunk contest, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn were selected to the Rising Stars Challenge (although Herro will not play due to an ankle injury), Duncan Robinson will participate in the 3-Point Contest, and Bam Adebayo will play in the Skills Challenge.
Just last season, the Heat were deemed as a team with “no direction” and seen by many as middle of the pack team stuck in NBA purgatory. Just one summer later, however, the Heat now have at least one participant in every single All-Star event, tons of salary cap space to sign another star in 2021 free agency, and a whole weekend to let Butler and Bam to recruit the next piece of the Heat dynasty the same way Irving and Durant planned ahead just last season.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo (one of the most notable free agents of the enormous 2021 Free Agency class) selecting both Butler and Adebayo to be a part of his All-Star team, it is clear that other stars are cognizant of what the Heat are all about. This upcoming weekend will not only allow the Heat to showcase their eclectic roster on the national stage, but it will also put the league on notice about the benefits of representing a beautiful city with a relentless front office, elite coaching, and a notorious culture that breeds success. This is no ordinary all-star weekend for Miami; this is the beginning of the future.
The Miami Heat are officially back.