DALLAS, TX - JUNE 09: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives against Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in the second half of Game Five of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 9, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
On Sunday, the Miami Heat will receive the gift of watching the Dallas Mavericks unfurl the team's 2010-11 NBA Championship banner. But LeBron James and company may have the last laugh.
The storm surrounding the Miami Heat for much of the 2011-12 season, including the NBA Finals, was unprecedented -- there was immutable interest in the club's fortune while at the same time just about everyone from outside of south Florida claimed to despise the team's biggest star. LeBron James became the villain no one could ignore, something between a leper and a prophet. Even fans and observers who felt satisfied with LeBron's decision to use free agency to get what he wanted were disappointed in the lack of earthshaking impact the move ended up having.
The Heat's Finals failure against the Dallas Mavericks fit that disappointment perfectly: instead of being the superhuman we'd seen before, LeBron seemed to have invisible shackles holding him inert. He dominated Eastern foes in the playoffs, but just fell apart against Dallas, who rode the advantage to a 4-2 Finals win and the franchise's first NBA championship.
It may get tiresome, but it's always about LeBron, just as it will be on Sunday's broadcast. You'll hear about his work on his post game, his willingness (or lack thereof) to play power forward and even center, his ultimate challenge this season, his mental state -- everything you ever thought could be shaken loose from a players' psyche and preparation, you'll get it.
On the other end, we should hear all about the loss of Tyson Chandler to free agency, as we should: Chandler is a great loss to the frontline of that team, a frontline that dominated Miami's last June. Chandler will be replaced by Brendan Haywood, who has been a good defender throughout his career but doesn't quite have the skills or size of Chandler. If we've been good basketball fans this year, perhaps Santa will also deliver some Ian Mahinmi, who played sparingly in 2010-11 after playing sparingly for a few years in San Antonio.
The game tips off around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday on ABC. SBNation.com will have full coverage.