The Miami Heat came together in the summer of 2010 with the goal of winning multiple championships, and that goal was officially met Thursday night when the team found a way to fend off a valiant effort from the San Antonio Spurs to win Game 7, 95-88.
Now that the season is over, we can peer into the crystal ball and examine what's next for these two teams.
This victory makes it two titles in three seasons for the Big Three, and although there was some premature talk of breaking it up to reduce luxury tax payments, it would seem crazy to do that with the team having a chance at a three-peat. Yes, Dwyane Wade has shown signs of slowing down and Chris Bosh doesn't always play like a true big man, but it's hard to argue with the results. Perhaps things change when all three players have the chance to opt-out after next season, but for now, expect them to stick together.
The Heat will be in line to pay a hefty amount of tax next season, with more than $86 million in committed salary and the new repeater penalties kicking in. Mario Chalmers does have a $4 million team option that could be declined, but the Heat are expected to pick that up.
Another key decision will be whether to amnesty Mike Miller, as he's owed nearly $13 million over the next two seasons. Waiving Miller would bring some luxury tax relief, although it wouldn't come all that close to keeping Miami out of the tax completely. But winning championships makes it much easier to swallow those tax burdens.
For the Spurs, this is the first Finals loss in franchise history and could mark the end of the Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili era. Ginobili is a free agent and will be 36 in July, so a big decision lies ahead about his future. Ginobili has been playing professionally since 1995, so don't rule out retirement, especially considering the injury issues and general struggles he dealt with this year.
If Ginobili does want to keep playing, he would certainly come at a reduced rate, but how much would the Spurs be willing to pay? San Antonio already has decisions to make on restricted free agents Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal, with Splitter likely getting a nice chunk of change. Keeping those players would cut into the Spurs' cap space, and if they want to possibly make a splash in free agency, they may not want to shell out too much for Ginobili.
Duncan was asked after the game if he'll be back for next season, and responded in a typically abrupt and salty fashion the Spurs have made a calling card. Duncan said he's still under contract for next season so he plans on returning to the Spurs and again chasing his fifth title.