The Heat lost last night.
It's the first time in 52 days we can write that sentence, and after 27 straight wins, it was a little shocking to see them fall behind the Bulls late in the fourth quarter Wednesday and NOT have LeBron take over on both ends of the court, put together an insane comeback, and leaves Miami looking more invincible than ever. But it didn't happen.
And since it was the Bulls who finally took them down, or maybe more because it's impossible to see this team apart from the orgy of insanity that's accompanied them pretty much every week for the past two-and-a-half years, I couldn't help but think back to Bulls-Heat in March 2011.
Compare Wednesday to that Bulls loss in March. The one where the Heat collapsed in crunch time and lost a one-point game, and then this happened:
Spoelstra said some Heat players are crying in the locker room at the moment.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) March 6, 2011
As Chris Bosh said that Sunday afternoon, "Just to come up short again and again, it hurts. We all want to win. We all want to win very badly."
Bosh said he was not one of the guys crying but that he almost did.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) March 6, 2011
It's easy to forget all the batshit insanity from that first year, but yeah, somehow we got to the point where superstars had to sincerely clarify to reporters that they weren't one of the players crying in the locker room, but that they almost did. Meanwhile, that same day Dwyane Wade sneered, "The Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now because the Heat is losing."
All part of the Heatles experience! With a team that was equal parts overwhelmed and resentful, and nowhere near as impressive as we expected.
As Tom Thibodeau crowed two years ago, "We have guys who can close."
In the other locker room there was LeBron: "I told my team, I’m not going to continue to fail late in games. I put a lot of blame on myself tonight. I told the guys that I just keep failing them late in games and I won’t continue to do that."
The next day everyone had a different column wondering whether the Heat experiment was a total failure, whether LeBron or Wade could work together, whether LeBron could handle the moment, etc. And that's before you get to the crying story, which was hilarious and amazing and for a lot of people crystallized everything that made the Heat weak and destined to fail.
All part of the year where we had 1,000 criticism that look ridiculous two years later.
This made sense at the time, though. That's what's craziest about those memories. Charles Barkley was right when responded to Dwyane Wade's "The world is better" quote by saying, "You’re the guys who came out and said, ‘We’re not going to win 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 championships. We’re like, ‘Really?’ They never take any personal responsibility to why people take shots at them."
Or when he told the Heat they should "quit whining and bitching like a little girl."
They deserved the criticism. God that team was insufferable. Joyless and petulant and inescapable and tone deaf at every turn. The Heat did whine and bitch constantly. They did come up short of all the expectations they set for themselves, they did have trouble handling the daily scrutiny, and they did have crunch times issues and chemistry questions that hung over the entire season and eventually the NBA Finals. They did.
Now they don't.
When they lost to the Bulls two years ago, Adrian Wojnarowski continued his year-long criticism crusade by zeroing in on Wade and LeBron:
"When people warned Wade about letting LeBron into his life, they wanted him to think about how he’d handle James making all the big shots, becoming the biggest star on South Beach. They never considered the possibility of what it would feel like for Wade to watch James fail over and over."
It's been two years now, and we just watched LeBron and Wade succeed over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.
They finally failed on Wednesday, sure. But when the Heat somehow don't dominate this year, we see the failures for what I guess they were two years ago: Just delaying the inevitable. There will be no columns today about whether Miami can work together, LeBron made no apologies Wednesday night, and there were no Heat players crying in the locker room. The Heat changed or we changed or both. Whatever happened, the failures that said everything in 2011 mean absolutely nothing in 2013. That sort of says it all.
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