Miami Heat Index: Can't Stand the Heat

  • A full recap of the NBA Finals, as told by LeBron James' facial expressions.
  • Every drama needs a villain -- and it's good for business. Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg examines various commercial sectors and comes up with some conclusive evidence: "[A] number of season-long metrics, including television ratings, attendance and merchandise sales, show that James, 26, bolstered the bottom line of not only the Heat but the rest of the NBA, too ... 'LeBron and the Heat, as a team to hate, certainly were helpful to the NBA product,' said former Madison Square Garden President Bob Gutkowski, a partner in the New York-based sports consulting company Innovative Strategic Management. 'LeBron was very good for the NBA.'"
  • The New Yorker's web producer, Sally Law is a Cleveland native and sports fan. She caught up with her brother Nick, who works at the Brew Kettle in Strongsville, Ohio. Nick's report from the Brew Kettle: "We’re all happy they lost ... Still, it’s not like our team won."
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich declares the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans.
  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: "To hear James suggest that the world will have to return to its sad, little ordinary lives and he’ll still get to be LeBron James late Sunday night was a window into his warped, fragile psyche. It was sad, and portends to how disconnected to the world he truly is ... There’s nothing real about James’ world, and never has been. He’s a prisoner of a life that his sycophants and enablers and our sporting culture has created for him. He’s rich and talented and something of a tortured soul. He’s the flawed superstar for these flawed times. He’s a creation of a basketball breeding ground full of such twisted priorities and warped principles. Almost every person who’s ever had to work closely with him, who has spent significant time, who’s watched him belittle and bully people, told me they were rooting hard against him. That’s sad, and that’s something he doesn’t understand and probably never will."
  • Basketbawful responds to LeBron's postgame comments that those rooting against him will have the same personal problems Monday morning that they did Sunday night: "That lone statement speaks volumes about who and what LeBron is at this point in his life. Things didn't go his way in Cleveland and so he fled to Miami. Now there's nowhere to run and he wants us lesser mortals to remember he lives a better life than we do. Totally d-----baggery."
  • Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski spent the season rooting against the Heat, but the manner with which the Heat faded in Game 6 took the fun out of the whole exercise.
  • Mark Cuban marks a tweet with the hashtag #Big3, crowing "how amazing was it that dirk, brian cardinal and ian mahini planned to all sign with the Mavs this summer !!"
  • Speaking of owners gone wild, Dan Gilbert gleefully tweets: "Congrats to Mark C.& entire Mavs org. Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE."
  • Cavs fans at a bar in Cleveland had a blast watching Game 6.
  • First DeShawn Stevenson calls the Heat classless, then he breaks out the anti-Bron tee on some roadside somewhere.
  • Someecards, an online greeting card company, has gotten in on the act.
  • At Deadspin, Drew Magary revels in the Heat's series loss (PG-13): "There hasn't been a more gratifying moment for sports haters since the Saints beat Favre and Manning back-to-back in the NFC title game and Super Bowl. It was glorious, delirious, WONDERFUL moment in hating. And the best part is that, come next year, we get to do it all over again!"
  • Russ Bengston tweets that LeBron should go Phil Jackson: "LeBron should head into the Outback with a mess of peyote." As a matter of clarity, peyote is not to be smoked, something Jackson pointed out in his final postgame press conference this postseason.
  • Michelle of Amp Radio in Los Angeles tells America to set its watches: "It's National LeBron James day. That means everyone can leave work 12 minutes early."
  • Fans may not be the only ones rooting against the Heat. According to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, other teams have been showing their support for the Mavs (and against Miami) in the form of helpful tips. DeShawn Stevenson (who else?) had no probably tipping off reporters on the matter: "The guys that I deal with, they say a lot of things about how to guard and the way to play them,'' Stevenson said about other players whose seasons are over that he regularly talks to. "And coach [Rick Carlisle] said a lot of coaches called him about how to play the Miami Heat. I just think a lot of people want to see us win this thing.'' Added Stevenson: "I take it as they're not liked for what happened this summer with getting everybody the way they did it and obviously the way they play and showboat, all them things. I just think we're -- I don't want to say clean-cut -- but we're the guys that play the right way, pass the ball and do things. We just got to worry about ourselves. We got a great team and a great group of guys. We just got to go out on the last home game and try to bring this home.''
  • As Darren Rovell tweets, "The LeBron hate is flying." Evidence is here.
  • A Twitter reply to Henry Abbott last night from @zarakand sums things up nicely: "@TrueHoop lol we just hate the heat. Get over it"
  • Watch Bob Ley rhyme his way through "Blow The Whistle," Jay-Z's diss song about Stevenson.
  • Charles Barkley admires both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Heat fans? Not so much: "Yeah they have the worst fans. No question. It's not even loud in there. You're at the game and you are like, 'Man this place isn't even loud.' [...] Listen, if the Miami Heat were playing the Washington Generals I would pick the Washington Generals."
  • Those who root for LeBron's failure may be in for a disappointment, writes CBS' Ken Berger.
  • Fan.s at a Cleveland sports bar let the "I told you sos" ring from the rooftop after the Heat's Game 4 collapse, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports: "Clevelanders want to believe Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s Decision Night declarations that his team will win a title before James … that James took the supposed Curse of Cleveland with him to South Beach … that James will quit again like many say he did in Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals vs. Boston. In Game 4 of the Finals, those hopes sprung to life. For one night, this clan of Cavs-for-Mavs fans was able to say, Hey, we told you so. 'Yep, he’s a quitter,' one said. 'What a choker,' another insisted."
  • Hating the Heat may actually be more fun than liking them: "Give us a bad guy, and we turn a sporting event into a morality play. Give us a bad guy, and we have a reason to tune in. Give us the teams we love, or give us one we can hate."
  • After hating LeBron for so long, one southern-based columnist is now feeling sorry for him: "I thought this would be easy, pulling against LeBron James. Eleven months ago I’d worked up a disdain I figured would carry me through 2011 and probably 2021. But here Miami is, playing for the NBA title, and I have a confession: I’m actually starting to feel sorry for LeBron."
  • Two days after being accused from shrinking in the moment, LeBron didn't even show up, writes Ben Golliver of CBS Sports: To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable. After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career – had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career."
  • Get your official "Hate" T-shirt while they're hot.
  • Rolling around in hostile territory this week, LeBron and D-Wade have hired some protection.
  • Here is a note to LeBron James explaining why he is so hated. “The proof that America has turned against you can be found everywhere. When I googled “hate LeBron James” on Tuesday morning, about 16 million results popped up. Some examples: NewsOne’s headline on May 13, 2011 was: “Why We Hate LeBron James.” There is the ever-popular site called “IHateLeBronJames.com. And on SI.com last Nov. 23, Michael Rosenberg wrote a piece called, “Why people hate LeBron James.”
  • Whether or not you love or hate the Heat depends on whether you’re old school or new school. “Why are teams such as the Heat so despised? Those who support the Heat will say that their naysayers are "haters." On the flip side, the fans who dislike the Heat will call their fans "frontrunners." When it comes down to it, both of these depictions are wrong. It really depends on what type of fan you are: Old School or New School.”
  • LeBron showed in Cleveland that he didn’t like having the weight of the world on his shoulders. “So the discussion that seems to be raging about LeBron James disappearing for stretches in some games, and in the case of Game 4 the entire game, is significant for broadcasters, sports radio callers, basketball pundits, and the guys at the local watering hole—it isn't for LeBron. He made it clear he was not comfortable with the weight of the Cleveland Cavalier franchise on his ample shoulders. He has intimated repeatedly that he is grateful now, with his posse on the Heat, to have less responsibility to be the focal point every game.”
  • Whose team is it? Kurt Helin has an inkling. "The Heat are not LeBron’s team. They are not Dwyane Wade’s team. They share the team, the spotlight, the alpha dog role. At the end of Game 3, they got together to run a pick-and-roll rather than an isolation for one of them. At other times they each have taken over at the end of games. They each have called out teammates.'"
  • Michael Wallace tweets, "Said it all season. Heat won't be sympathetic bunch. But crazy how they're taking on Mavs + still some silly media at this stage."
  • DeShawn Stevenson sees LeBron and Dwyane Wade as master thespians. "They're great actors and they sell it," Stevenson said Monday afternoon. "That's what they're supposed to do."
  • Ken Berger sees LeBron's approach as praiseworthy. "You can't credit James for closing out the Celtics and Bulls because the defensive matchups favored him, and vilify him when he steps aside against the Mavs because the matchups favor Wade. This is the very thing his critics (myself included) doubted he'd be able to do. You can't watch LeBron notice out of the corner of his eye -- with his back to the play -- that Udonis Haslem was walling off Dirk Nowitzki to create a wide-open baseline shot for Bosh and say LeBron should've shot the ball instead. Can you imagine the venom if he'd done that, and missed?"
  • What's the best way for LeBron James to change his image? Win with class. "This may be LeBron James' last chance. Not his last chance at an NBA title. I'm talking about his last chance to resonate with that legion of people he lost during 'The Decision.'"
  • Tell me again, why am I supposed to dislike the Heat? "Other than a dose of classlessness and immaturity in LeBron’s one hour TV show that ended up being called “The Decision”, what did these three basketball players do that was so wrong? Did they break any rules? No. Did they turn free agency on its ear? No. Did they damage any league process in any way? No."
  • What exactly does it mean to be a hater? "People need to realize that "hating" in sports is not the same as in life. Hating a player or team doesn't mean you're going to try to kill anyone; it's a "healthy hatred" that simply means you're going to root against them. Oftentimes, if your own favorite team is out of the running, rooting against a player or team is the only motivation to watch a game and care about the outcome."
  • According to the Rony Seikaly, the Heat are more motivated now than ever. "And America loves to hate teams like the Heat. They love to build you up and then knock you down. America prefers the underdogs. And the Heat are far from an underdog team. They are the Goliath. The only way to get back into people's graces is to act very humble. And I'm not sure that'll happen."
  • When you attack LeBron James, sometimes he attacks back. "Some media personalities who are controversial for the sake of being controversial (taking controversial, albeit absurd stances makes you into a personality and a brand that generates phone calls on the radio and clicks on the web, etc), are trying to find any possible way to knock LeBron James."
  • Criticism is nothing new for Heat president Pat Riley. "Riley maintained a low profile after assembling the Big Three. He has rarely spoken with the media, although there has been heavy scrutiny on the way he put the team together. Riley faced criticism when he was the slick-haired coach of the Lakers in the ’80s, and when he turned the Knicks into a brutally physical contender during the 1990s."
  • Daniel Gibson isn't too happy with LeBron James. ... Again. Gibson, irked by his old teammates' comments of wanting "to team up with some guys that would never die down in the moment" after taking down the Bulls last week, fired back on The Dugout Sports Show Podcast. "The way it's said, you can't help but take it personal. ... I don't think great players should feel the need to say this about a team or say that about a team. I think what it all boils down to if you're great, you go play great, be great and everybody will realize you're great. And you wouldn't have to let it be known that everybody else was less great. Great players shouldn't have to do that. So I feel like it's kind of an admission. He might have needed some help. He might have needed to go somewhere and find someone who is a little greater so maybe he wouldn't die down in those moments."
  • It's no secret that most Cavs fans have enjoyed any defeat handed to LeBron and the Heat. But for the Finals, "Cleveland Todd" and his "Cavs For Mavs" cohorts have taken it a step further. But, as he tells Yahoo's Dan Wetzel, the campaign isn't just for suffering Cavs fans: "'CavsForMavs is a good name but I think it’s everybody,' Todd said. 'I’ve been getting messages from people who aren’t Cavs fans or Mavs fans. I don’t know how you can live in Kansas and be a Heat fan. Unless you’re a frontrunner and then you’re a horrible person.' Todd is joking. Sort of. The anger from Cleveland looms over this Finals, making it like nothing in recent memory. This isn’t just about the Heat vs. the Mavericks. For many, it’s more. There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to CavsForMavs, but the underlying emotion is real."
  • The jabs at LeBron's hairline aren't receding, er, going away, as evidenced by this Photoshop circulating around the Internet.
  • Why do fans hate King James so much? Will Leitch counts the ways. "The emotion evoked by the name 'LeBron James' can be either vitriol or devotion. Most Cavaliers fans -- not all, of course, but most -- have never forgiven him for surrendering in Game 5 of last year's NBA series against Boston. And woe be unto he (or she) who invokes "The Decision" television debacle."
  • Add these to your Heat joke book: "What is the difference between a Miami Heat player and a baby? A baby eventually stops crying. Not only did the Heat get cited for a locker room crying story, but they do whine on almost constant basis.”
  • Why hate the Heat? SB Nation's Andrew Sharp gives you 100 reasons. Starting with ... “Pat Riley is the creepy old guy at the bar, plotting ways to steal your girlfriend.”
  • Hoop fans have been calling Colin Cowherd to hate on LeBron.
  • Say what you want about the Heat, but the ratings have been soaring this postseason. Game 1 of the NBA Finals averaged a 10.7 in major markets, ahead of last year's first game between the Celtics and Lakers, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald points out.
  • Winning a championship won’t make the haters suddenly start liking the Heat. “But to say a championship will suddenly turn the Heat into a popular team is the stuff of fools. The term Miami Hate has become as common in places outside of South Florida as the team’s name, a term that is littered with envy.“
  • Give the Heat a chance, and They'll grow on you. Just ask Lisa Rab: “I no longer hate the Miami Heat. Now that the rest of America loathes them, they're growing on me.”
  • Some hate LeBron for taking the "can’t beat 'em, join 'em" approach. “The success of the Miami superteam seems to have half the other stars in the league now wanting to cut the same corners.”
  • For some, it’s no longer fun to hate on the Heat. “I’m not jumping on the James-Big Three-Heat bandwagon. It’s too late for that. Dan Le Batard won’t let me on. And I’m not even convinced the Heat will win this best-of-seven Finals series.”

Can't Stand The Heat: NBA Finals, June 1

June, 1, 2011
6/01/11
11:22
AM ET
By ESPN.com
ESPN.com
  • Meet the Dallas Cavs.
  • Mavs backup extraordinaire Jason Terry is sleeping with the enemy.
  • The Heat may be the most hated team since the Bad Boys, writes Matt Mosely on FoxSports.com: "It would be easy to turn the NBA Finals into a battle of Good vs. Evil, so let's get right to it. The Miami Heat is the most hated team of the past decade. You almost have to go back to the 'Bad Boys' Pistons to find a group of players that engendered this type of vitriol from fans around the league. But at least the Pistons had lovable sharpshooter Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson to provide some balance."
  • Is Miami the most hated city in America? Page 2 investigates.
  • In this preview clip of his newest film "Bad Teacher,"Jason Segel takes a young LeBron fan to task.
  • Darren Rovell, of CNBC, answers the question: Are the Heat the most hated team to play for the title?
  • Not everybody thinks it’s cool to hate on Miami.
  • Fans are even turning to Facebook to vent about the Heat here and here.
  • Don’t hate LeBron James, cautions Allen Barra of The Atlantic: “Yes, he's rich, arrogant, and made a fool of himself with his nationally televised Decision. But he's also the greatest active player in the game today.”

Charles Barkley: Heat are a 'whiny bunch'

May, 17, 2011
5/17/11
6:50
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
Archive
Charles Barkley has no beef with LeBron James and the Miami Heat, he just thinks 'The Decision' was "silly."

The TNT NBA analyst joined ESPN 1000 Tuesday in studio to preview the Heat-Bulls matchup. Here are the quotables from Barkley from ESPNChicago.com:
"He was mad at me for a while. I like LeBron. I think LeBron is the best basketball player in the world right now.

"But him and his guys think because some of us didn't like that 'Decision' thing -- that was silly -- they got mad about that. Like wait a minute, I always said it's nothing personal, that thing was silly. We say he's the best player in the world, but you guys are mad because we criticized 'The Decision.'

"[They say] we don't like the Miami Heat. First of all, that's not true at all. Those guys are actually a whiny bunch. They said a couple times this year, 'Well the world is happy the Miami Heat [is losing].' Please don't flatter yourself. C'mon man.

"We criticize [James] because of 'The Decision.' But nobody dislikes LeBron James. LeBron James is a good dude. But I love, 'The Miami Heat is losing, the world is happy.' First of all, nobody is thinking about the Miami Heat. You guys are good guys. You're the guys who came out and said, 'We're not going to win 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 championships.' We're like, 'Really.' They never take any personal responsibility to why people take shots at them.

"If LeBron had just said, 'Hey, you know what, I want to win more, I'm going to Miami.' Nobody would have disliked that," Barkley said. "I don't know what that thing was when they came out on stage and said they were going to win seven championships.

"Those are the two things that annoyed people, but nobody dislikes Dwyane and LeBron and Chris Bosh. All three are good guys and terrific players."

Here's the full audio from ESPN 1000 Waddle & Silvy show.

Heat have adjusted to the jeers

April, 2, 2011
4/02/11
12:27
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
Archive
Dwyane Wade Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images
These kinds of plays have a way of turning boos into oohs and ahhs.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” blared over the sound system at Target Center as the Heat were introduced. LeBron James got roundly booed as he was announced. Then Miami flattened the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-92.

Just another night on the road for the most hated team in America.

“Everyone has really bought into this 'hate the Miami Heat' thing," said James, who had 27 points. “That’s OK. It’s just basketball.”

Friday marked the completion of the Heat’s first loop around the NBA, their 28th arena visited in their first post-“Decision” tour. The restaurants around the arena were jammed, and the Wolves, who average just more than 15,000 fans, crammed more than 19,000 into the building.

The Heat, who now are in a tie (in the loss column) with the Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, were unmoved.

As the road trips progressed, some locales were more hostile than others. The Dec. 2 visit to Cleveland was likely the most intense non-playoff environment the players had ever experienced. Chris Bosh’s first visit to Toronto was a jeerfest replete with a bizarre conclusion when Bosh got cheered for blowing kisses to the crowd. Surprisingly, the fans in Portland and the Clippers' fans in Los Angeles had stronger than expected negative reactions with inventive signs and costumes when the Heat made their visits.

For the most part, though, the routine went like it did Friday night. There were pro forma boos in warm-ups and for the first few minutes. But after awhile, the fans forgot about it and started to get enraptured by the Heat’s overall star power.

For the 20th time this season, Dwyane Wade, Bosh and James each had more than 20 points. Even though a timeout early in the night featured a “Bandwagon Cam” mocking the Heat-clad fans in attendance, by the second half, the building was buzzing as Wade threw down four dunks on a 25-1 Heat run that decided the game.

In rivalry games, such as those in Boston and Chicago, the fan intensity has naturally been higher from start to finish. But it was the bitter treatment from the crowds early in the season in places such as New Orleans and Memphis that caught some Heat players off guard.

However, the Heat have long since desensitized themselves to it. On most nights, the crowd's edge doesn’t have much staying power and gradually becomes background noise.

“Like villains,” said Bosh, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds. “You have to embrace the villain role. They’re going to hate us anyway, and we’ve got to try to enjoy being in this position.”

James generally gets the lion’s share of the mocking and jeers -- fans voted Metallica’s “King Nothing” as their choice to be played after the third quarter Friday. It beat out other choices such as “King of Fools” and “Me, Myself and I." Bosh is the one who often gets most mocked with various nicknames aimed at his finesse style of play. And Wade, well, he doesn’t catch much flak.

Wade actually got cheers in Cleveland and Toronto this season in a mass display of reverse psychology. Trying to shake that routine, Wade bashed both Cleveland and Toronto in an attempt to avoid getting that treatment in the future. Nonetheless, he seems to have enjoyed the experience, as he was spared most of the direct distaste for his new teammates.

“It’s been awesome, actually. I’ve enjoyed it,” said Wade, who had 32 points. “The fans are going to be into it from the start. We appreciate it because it drives us. We’ve had some of our better performances on the road.”

As with just about everything for the Heat this season, this acclimation has been a process. In November, a frustrated James rolled his eyes when he got jeers during a loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis. “It wasn’t like I ever said I’d be coming to Memphis,” James said, unsure of why he was getting such treatment in cities that weren’t in the fight for his services.

Used to fans clamoring for autographs when he hit the floor, James now just tried to avoid getting hit with debris.

By January, James changed tack. During a rousing game in Portland, he enticed the crowd to keep booing him after sinking a basket in overtime that sealed the Heat’s hard-fought victory. He said he was dealing with his new normal, but it wasn’t his personality and it predictably didn’t last. Soon enough, he was no longer inviting abuse.

Now, things have settled to detachment. Occasionally James will engage a zealous heckler, as he’s done throughout his career. For the most part, though, he and the rest of his teammates try to just go through their business without taking note or commenting on how they’re treated.

The crowds, even in Cleveland this week, have predictably mellowed along with them.

“It was an adjustment for all of us, including myself,” James said. “Once we got used to it, we started to take a liking to it.”

LeBron's second return doesn't pack punch

March, 29, 2011
3/29/11
2:18
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron James
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
On Tuesday, LeBron James is unlikely to engage -- or even recognize -- the Cavs' bench.

CLEVELAND -- Ditching his usual smile, Daniel Gibson put on a tough guy act when talking about LeBron James' most recent return to his hometown.

“That ain’t going to happen,” the usually affable and always polite Cleveland Cavaliers guard said. “We can definitely rule that whole thing out.”

Gibson took unwanted flack when James made his memorable return to Cleveland in December after cameras caught him talking to and smiling at his ex-teammate from the bench as the Heat were blowing out the shell-shocked Cavs. This time, Gibson vows, no such pleasantries will be permitted.

Frankly, it won’t be that hard for Gibson to back up his word. Should James try again to engage the Cavs' bench he may not be able to find anyone he even knows over there.

With injuries that have knocked starters out for the season and a couple trades that began a large-scale rebuilding process, James' former team is nearly unrecognizable. There are only three players currently on the active roster who played with James last season.

It’s just one of several reasons James’ second return with the Miami Heat on Tuesday night isn’t generating the furor in Northeast Ohio as his first visit did back on Dec. 2.

That night will be remembered for some time, if not for the lopsided game, then for the atmosphere created by five months of pent-up anger from jilted Cavs fans. Fans started getting removed from the Heat’s bench area as soon as James took the court. The air in Quicken Loans Arena was hot with hostility. The most cutting moment might have been when James got the never-before-seen standing boo when he went to the foul line for the first time.

The Heat will certainly remember it. As they’ve traveled the NBA and routinely dealt with varying levels of boos on the road, Heat players have often shrugged off the treatment by referring to the inoculation they got that December night. Dwyane Wade and James giggled at the Raptors fans’ attempts to intimidate Chris Bosh in his return when they compared it to what the team endured in Cleveland.

“It can’t get no worse than it was Dec. 2,” James said when asked what he’s expecting this time around. “I know that for a fact.”

Now, though, things are different. For one, the Cavs are playing out the string of one of the worst seasons in team history as injuries have plagued them all season. Second, the rabid fans from December have been disenchanted after seeing the Cavs set an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak. At 24 hours before tipoff, Tuesday’s game was not even a sellout. With two lottery picks, the organization has turned much of its attention toward the draft.

Right now the Cavs, even with James’ making his second local appearance, rank behind the Browns' draft and this week’s Indians’ season opener in general fan interest. Some of that is the natural order of things, but some of it is a coping mechanism as James revisits a team that is a shell of the two 60-win outfits he led over the past two seasons.

James didn’t expect the national fallout from his free-agent choice nor did he quite prepare himself for the level of venom he’d get in his hometown. But one thing he did know was that the passage of time would be therapy for everyone involved. Not surprisingly that process has already started as his first regular season in Miami draws to a close.

The scars in Cleveland are still fresh, but the feeling is no longer that of a bleeding wound. The Cavs and their fans, after all, have bigger things to worry about than the memory of July 8, 2010.

So do the Heat, who were deep in search mode when they last came to Cleveland at 10-8, but now are in a fight with the Boston Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs as they sit at 51-22. Miami is at the start of a four-game road trip against teams they expect to beat, including Washington, Minnesota and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Cavs were 7-10 when they last hosted the Heat and hopeful of assembling some sort of run for the playoffs. After the difficult loss, the Cavs went into a tailspin and are 7-48 since.

So saying Tuesday is just another game wouldn’t be true. But it isn't a defining moment either. Both teams are thankful for that.

“[Last time], every channel they had a special about LeBron going back to Cleveland,” Bosh said. “But it's a little bit different this time."

LeBron, MJ and legacies

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
4:52
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Professor Yago Colas' Basketball Culture 101 course at the University of Michigan continues to deliver thoughtful discussion. At Hoopism, Matt Gordon has been documenting his experience as a student in the class.

In studying Michael Jordan's persona and legacy, Gordon "was struck by how greatly perception and memory differ from reality." Gordon recently read Sam Smith's "The Jordan Rules," which chronicles a rocky, contentious 1990-91 Bulls season, which ultimately ends in a championship. Attending the 20th anniversary celebration of that team at the United Center recently, Gordon watched a harmonious fraternity of former Bulls being cheered, basking in the glow of the Chicago's collective memory. None of the pettiness, personal rivalries and ugly episodes from 1990-91 were present.

This scene got Gordon thinking: What happens if the Heat win a championship? How much will the public forget about "The Decision" and the various "-gates" that have marked time during this core's first season with the Heat? Will those who hate LeBron James forgive him for what they perceive to be his personal failings? Does winning spawn revisionism?
For all the Miami Heat “haters” right now, you must understand that if they win a championship (let alone several) none of this in-season nonsense about crying will be remembered, let alone the now infamous “Decision.” If you are a marketable star and win an NBA championship, all else falls by the wayside. The easiest way to learn about the present is to look at the past -- when Kobe is long gone do you think people will remember his rant about getting Andrew Bynum traded or his intense competitiveness and stack of titles? We remember those that win. Obviously, “The Decision” will never be forgotten, especially not in Cleveland, but if the Heat win a title -- “The Decision” instantly becomes a footnote to Champion.

At TrueHoop, Henry Abbott points out that Jordan's narrative was spun by a few select news outlets, whereas LeBron's story plays out daily in the guerrilla media. His elbow has a Twitter feed. Hit pieces on LeBron circulate on YouTube. The public is consulted every time he makes a flip remark in his pregame availability. When he thumbs his nose at Dan Gilbert, we grade him on his form.

James doesn't deserve any sympathy because he plays basketball in the digital age, but it's unlikely the current landscape will allow him to cultivate a legacy as pure as Jordan's.

We don't do purity anymore. Our world is decidedly more gray, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Rod Benson on crying in basketball

March, 7, 2011
3/07/11
1:24
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
As a teenager, Rod Benson sat in the locker room as the only member of his high school team not crying after dropping the state semifinal to a rival school. He didn't understand that outward display of emotion, that in until his Cal Bears lost on a decisive 3-pointer to N.C. State in the final game of his college career:
On the way back to the locker room, I broke down and started crying. At first, it was because I knew that if I had closed out short, he may have had a more difficult shot. I placed the blame on myself for losing the most important game of my college career and tears began to fall. I kind of felt stupid for crying, but I couldn’t help it.

When I sat down in the locker room, that’s when it really hit me. I actually sat there and cried for like 15 minutes straight. And this ain’t one of those “like 15 minutes” that was really two or three. This was legit. I couldn’t believe it, but it was like releasing everything that college basketball had meant to me up to that point.

That experience has informed the way Benson looks at what happened after the Heat's loss to Chicago on Sunday. As we do with every critic or observer, we have to disclaim where Benson stands on the Heat. He fits squarely into the camp of those who have no problem with the Heat's joining forces, but somewhat turned off by the events surrounding the union.

What he doesn't understand is the response to Erik Spoelstra's remarks that members of the Heat were crying after Sunday's loss:
These guys care. They care a lot, actually. Yes, they care what people think. They care that their legacies are on the line. They care about the city of Miami. They care about the NBA. They even care about you, their haters. How do I know they care? Because I know how much you have to care to cry after a loss...

... Furthermore, the guys who cry after the games don’t cry because they are terrible and have no chance. They do it because they’re close. So close it hurts. I’ve never seen a last place team cry after a game. Nor have a seen a team with no chance for serious success do it. It’s only the guys whose will is strong enough to do something about it afterwards. My senior year of college was the biggest setback of my life. Since then I’ve done nothing but grow and get better, because my will to do so is strong.

I’m not here trying to convert anyone into Miami fans. I’m not even a Miami fan. I actually think it’s fun and easy to ridicule them. But when I see tears in their eyes, I get the idea that the fun and games are over, and maybe they’re poised to turn things around after this setback. Heck, maybe they won’t, but I’ll never again question how much they care.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Chris Bosh
PTS AST STL MIN
20.6 2.8 1.3 34.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Bosh 8.6
AssistsD. Wade 6.4
StealsM. Chalmers 1.6
BlocksC. Bosh 0.7