Wait a minute. This is not how things were supposed to end. It was supposed to be classier. Prettier.
But no. The pre-ordained winner has been pushed to the side. The cocky owner, the one that’s been trying to change the game for years, is forced to wait yet another year. The team that was supposed to usher in a new style of basketball – one that was palatable to the public, high-flying, hot-shooting, tall, lanky, and offensive-minded – has been knocked to the floor, forced to watch a bunch of bully heavy-weights hold the title aloft for yet another year.
Never before has a more hated group of players formed a team and defeated all comers. The 1988 Pistons? The 2002 Lakers? No. The 2006 Miami Heat. This is not how things were supposed to end.
A week ago: Dallas was planning their victory parade. Mark Cuban was getting fitted for a championship ring. I was applauding this new NBA – the one that supports fast shooting and little defense, a style as opposite from my personal team than any. Now? I’m watching the television, disappointed and with dreams dashed. If Dallas succeeding when many thought they’d choke was the best thing that could happen, this Miami team – one filled to the gills with undeserving champions – is the worst.
Yeah. I’m disappointed. The season’s over, and this is the finale? This is like the final episode of Cheers. Of Seinfeld. A great series, ruined at the end by a less than great finale, a legend tarnished by an unexpected, yet completely boring sub-plot.
Pat Riley may have done what he could to force his predecessor out just months into the season. Gary Payton has pranced around the league with a smug demeanor for the past four seasons, assuming a championship was owed to him. Jason Williams, who’s never seen a shot he hasn’t wildly missed, has a ring, while true point guards like Jason Kidd and Steve Nash don’t. Alonzo Mourning – sure, he’s overcome kidney disease, but he’s also pushed his way out of two franchises and perfected the art of crying to the refs.
And don’t get me started about Antoine Walker. That he has a title under his belt after carpet bagging around for five years is a travesty to this league.
Nothing against Shaq and Dwayne Wade – the only two deserving players on the team – but this Miami Heat championship has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Everything I thought was changing has halted. It has gravitated towards the utterly unwatchable days of Riley-ball, of endless Heat vs. Knicks games where the total score barely reached 140.
But what can we say? We watched a team in total control through 11 quarters piss a completely winnable title down their legs. We watched a prospective MVP fade. We watched two promising young stars foul up the simplest of plays. We saw horrible calls, both from the refs and from Avery Johnson.
We watched the Dallas Mavericks lose this championship just as much as we saw the Miami Heat win it.
This is all very disappointing. After a playoff bracket that saw the resurgence of quality basketball – the reawakening of a burning phoenix that hadn’t fully lived since 1997, rising from the flames of Jordan, Bird, and Magic – we get the lowest common denominator of teams – a brutal, brawling team with a bevy of under deserving veterans and two superstar players.
We thought the team concept was coming back. Instead, we’re back to watching the Kobe and Shaq show. Except this time, Shaq’s taken another young man under his wing. Riley is the next Jackson. Walker the next Horry. It all about makes me sick.
But the worst part? At least watching the Heat was watching the NBA. Now I’ve got nothing. We all need something to hate, but we never expect that foil to actually succeed.
This was not how things were supposed to end. But it’s ended. And I’ve got six months to stew about it.
I love this game.