When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, critics decried the end of competitive balance. They saw LeBron’s “Not one, not two, not three…” remark not as a hopeful boast, but as the inevitable. The Heat would win the championship every year from then on, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Three years later, we see the Heat have real vulnerabilities after all.
Just like every other team in NBA history.
It was ridiculous to assume the Big Three would carry the Heat to title after title without any resistance. There’s no question LeBron, Wade and Bosh joining forces made the Heat very good this season. But their level of contribution is not unprecedented, and previous great trios haven’t always led their teams to a championship.
Twelve other teams have had three players each post at least nine win shares (Bosh’s total this season) and combine for at least 37.9 win shares (the aggregate total for LeBron, Wade and Bosh this season). Half, including the 2011 Heat, didn’t win a championship:
- 2013 Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka): Lost in second round
- 2011 Miami Heat (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh): Lost in NBA Finals
- 2005 Phoenix Suns (Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash): Lost in conference finals
- 2000 Los Angeles Lakers (Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Glen Rice): Won championship
- 1997 Utah Jazz (Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek): Lost in NBA Finals
- 1996 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Tony Kukoc): Won championship
- 1996 Utah Jazz (Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek): Lost in conference finals
- 1992 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen): Won championship
- 1991 Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant): Won championship
- 1987 Boston Celtics (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish): Lost in NBA Finals
- 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich): Won championship
- 1971 Milwaukee Bucks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge): Won championship
The Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics took Miami to seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. And now, the Indiana Pacers have pushed the Heat to seven games in this season’s conference final.
At some point, we must realize that even the favorite can lose or get challenged without it being a monumental upset. I understand the Heat brought a lot of these expectations up themselves, but that doesn’t mean we have to indulge them. They deserve a high bar to measure their success, but a championship or bust is too high. Look at the top 10 regular-season records of all time. Miami doesn’t have a single one.
The Heat are a very good team playing another very good team, and that’s why this series is headed to a Game 7 tonight. It would clearly be an upset if Miami – with a better regular-season record, the league’s MVP, a higher payroll and more postseason experience – loses. But it wouldn’t be shocking, and we shouldn’t treat it as such.