Basketball

Hatefest of Heat hit its peak on Sunday

LeBron James said of his detractors: "All the people rooting on me to fail have ... the same personal problems they had. I'm going to continue to live the way I want."
LeBron James said of his detractors: "All the people rooting on me to fail have ... the same personal problems they had. I'm going to continue to live the way I want." MCT

MIAMI — The hate will diminish next season, but not by much.

Because these Heat — the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James-Chris Bosh triumverate at its core — is generally despised. If Sunday's elimination of the Heat proved anything beyond Dallas' superiority, it demonstrated the depth of league-wide disdain for the Heat.

Yeah, sure, Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said the proper thing by mentioning how "classy" it was for Heat President Pat Riley to stop by the Dallas locker room to offer congratulations to the victors. But how sweet that must have been for the Mavericks given what Carlisle later said.

"(We) have made a statement that's a colossal statement," Carlisle offered. "Not just about our team, but the game in general. Our team is not about individual ability; it's about collective will."

If that wasn't an indictment of the Wade-James-Bosh construction, what was it?

If that wasn't a tease of Riley, who assembled this Miami group by luring James from Cleveland and Bosh from Toronto to team with Wade in pursuit of multiple titles, what was it?

There was more.

Oh, man, was there more.

"It wasn't about high-flying star power," Carlisle said. "C'mon, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn't doing? When are people going to talk about the purity of our game?

"I'm so proud of what our team stood for. I kept having people come up to me the last three or four days (saying), 'Hey, there's billions of people rooting for you guys.' And we could feel it. We knew it was very important that we won this title for those reasons. Because of what the game is about and what the game should stand for."

It was a declaration that while the Heat has been intriguing — and, absolutely, good for the NBA product — it has been every bit the target it knew it would be.

Miami, though, never quite could figure out what to do about the hate.

The Heat always talked about embracing the vitriol and using it as motivation, but seemed wounded by it by the time the end came. Lost souls.

And then came James' unfortunate post-Finals reaction.

"All the people rooting on me to fail have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before they woke up today," James said. "They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.

"(Critics) can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat, not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point."

James was smaller in that moment than he had been during fourth quarters of the series against the Mavericks.

And it spoke volumes as to why the Heat is so reviled in so many places. It went beyond James' ill-conceived televised announcement of The Decision to come to Miami, and beyond the preening party the team threw itself last summer in celebration of his and Bosh's arrival.

It won't be as bad next season.

James can only leave Cleveland once. And there won't be any self-generated lovefest in anticipation of a championship.

Those things will help reduce the loathing of the Heat.

But eliminate it? Not a chance.

  Comments