The Heat had closed out Game 7 against the Pacers long before the final buzzer had sounded, putting together a solid performance that had them leading by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter before all was said and done.
Once it was over, most of the Pacers exchanged handshakes with the Heat players, in what’s been a common tradition following just about every playoff series.
Noticeably absent from the Indiana side were Roy Hibbert and David West, who each had their own reasons for not wanting to share in the festivities.
For West, it’s simple.
He’s old school. He’s like the players in the 1980’s. He doesn’t have time to be buddies with his opponent. That’s why West never shook hands with any Heat players during the 10 meetings this season.
For Hibbert, it was different.
He’s never played with any of the Heat players. He respects them, but it wasn’t the time to be crashing their party.
“I know some of our guys have played on teams with some of them, but I don’t know them personally,” Hibbert explained to The Star. “It was their moment because they won. I have tremendous respect for them, but I don’t know any of those guys personally and I didn’t want to interrupt their moment.”
Some people want to criticize Hibbert for this specifically, citing further evidence that he’s now some sort of NBA bad guy between this (non-) incident and his unfortunate remarks made in the press conference following Game 6.
But whether or not you believe Hibbert’s reasoning, this really is nothing to be upset about.
If this Pacers team had any type of meaningful multi-year playoff history with the Heat, and had been on the winning side of things in the past, it could be argued that skipping out on congratulating your opponent puts you squarely in the category of being a sore loser.
That’s not what this was, however.
The most famous example of bailing on the post-series handshake came in 1991, when Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls finally beat the Bad Boys era Detroit Pistons to earn a trip to their first NBA Finals. Isiah Thomas and the rest of the Pistons left the floor before the game was even over to avoid the public passing of the torch that so many were hoping to see, after Detroit had beaten Chicago in the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons.
Now, if the Pacers face the Heat again next season and are able to knock them off after losing to them in the playoffs two straight years, and if LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leave the floor without the customary exchange, then go ahead and label them as you will. But for all the reasons just mentioned, Hibbert isn’t deserving of any additional scorn.