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Whereupon an NBA free-agent fan sets about selecting a team to root for during the 2013-14 NBA season.
Your likely 2013-14 NBA champions is hereby eliminated from the NBA Fandom Games.
This isn’t about some prolonged and perpetual hatred for the post-Beijing, Decision-generated, not-one-not-two-not-three Miami Heat. Whatever retribution those villains had earned was doled out with flavor at the 2011 NBA Finals, when an artfully-assembled and virtuous Dallas Mavericks team overcame their own weighty demons and stunned the Heat to become champions.
A title in that first season would have meant that three stars from across the NBA were able to stack the odds so dramatically that they won a title the instant they chose to, essentially rigging the league. The Mavericks did what needed to be done not just for that organization but for the NBA as a whole, demonstrating that a well-balanced and seasoned squad forged together through time and experience can conquer even the most gifted of rosters. And thank goodness for that.
No, the Miami Heat and its star amongst stars in LeBron James should no longer carry the weight of the competitively blasphemous choice to join forces under the banner of Micky Arison and Pat Riley’s Heat. It was lifted that June in Miami when the visiting Mavericks captured the franchise’s first title.
The subsequent banners raised in Miami served as an ongoing annoyance to NBA fans of many-an-ilk, but not in the context of the NBA Fandom Games. That 2011 Heat team experienced more blowback than perhaps any other modern NBA franchise, succumbed to a title loss, and returned the following year a better team for it. James evolved into the all-time great as predicted by pundits going back to when the King was only in high school, co-conspirators Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh successfully carved out and embodied their James-orbiting roles, and the roster experienced remarkably little turnover, a terrific supporting cast for the team’s All-Star poster boys.
The Heat deserve a mountain of support for what they accomplished the last two years. They didn’t get it, naturally, because for too many fans the merging of these three talents (in Miami no less) was unforgivable. Yet had the Fandom Games been initiated in 2011 or 2012, the Heat would have ranked amongst the best, having taken the requisite lumps following their manipulative free agency endeavor.
The upcoming season is a different story. Fair or not, James will likely never be held in as high a regard as Michael Jordan—even if he wins six rings, Jordan’s cultural impact remains unmatched—but with these last two seasons he has taken his rightful place in the pantheon, now undoubtedly one of the ten best players in NBA history, and well-positioned to take his place in the top five. The 2014 Miami Heat earned their validation, righted the wrongs produced by The Decision, and quieted the always-ridiculous noise surrounding James’ ability to reach the foretold heights promised by his career.
In 2014 the Miami Heat’s crusade is no longer as virtuous. With James having cemented his legacy, additional rings are only further adornment for an already stellar career, and while the King certainly deserves it, and will in all likelihood experience a good deal more of it in this later half of his career, for a fan the great reward of 2014 will not be in further Miami success but in one of the franchise’s many challengers seizing the mantle from these all-time greats. Very little is more rewarding for fans than witnessing the creation of a legend and then seeing it conquered by a worthy upstart. The Detroit Pistons of 2004 jump to mind.
So while the Heat’s elimination is in no way laced with the anger and resentment that has followed LeBron James since The Decision—really since the start of his prodigious career—it is indeed an elimination. The greatest potential fan experience of 2014 will be rooting for the team that beats The Team, and so the Heat have to go, with the hope that whatever obstacles they encounter this season will reinvigorate the Miami Heat fan experience of 2015.
And with that the Fandom Games are now entering the Top 10…
NBA Fandom Games Eliminated Teams List:
New York Knicks
Golden State Warriors
Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr