During the past month or so, since the NBA playoffs started and the Knicks lost to the Heat in 5 games, my disdain for the Heat has increased exponentially. Most people I deal with on a daily basis hear about it one way or the other. I’m sure some of them bring up the Heat just to get me going, which is all in good fun. However, most people think this disdain solely rests with Lebron James, which it doesn’t. This disdain is with the Heat as a team, although Lebron does get the most direct comments from me, that’s mostly because he’s the face of the franchise and, to a larger extent, the NBA.
Let’s start with the fact that this is NOT the Bulls or Lakers teams from the recent past. The Bulls were created through the draft, trades, and free agent pickups. Jordan didn’t leave another team to create his own dynasty, he created it in Chicago, where he was drafted to play. The Heat were created when 3 superstars decided to create a talent imbalance on one team over all others.
When it comes down to it, I think there’s a parallel between the Yankees and the Heat, teams for which I routinely root against. The Yankees have had the highest payroll in the major leagues for many years, usually by a large margin. On a side note, I did notice the payroll difference between the Yankees and the team with the second highest payroll has decreased each of the last 5 years, but the Yankees still continue hold a big edge. This is allowed because Major League Baseball (MLB) has no salary cap to prevent them from doing so. Although the Yankees don’t win championships every year, they’re put in a position to do so from the very beginning each year by signing the best players to play for them, usually at a cost most other teams are unwilling to match. And when the Yankees do win a championship, most fans, the ones that root for a team not named the Yankees, are not impressed. With the amount of money they spend each year, they should win championships every year. Other teams would love to do this same thing, but don’t have the funds to pull off.
So where’s the parallel between the Yankees and Heat? Well, let me first explain NBA rules and how the Heat came together. The NBA has what most people refer to as a soft salary cap. Teams can go over the cap to sign they’re own players. In addition, the NBA has rules for how much a player can get paid, which is more if the player signs with their original team as a free agent. Prior to the 2010-2011 season the Heat had very few players under contract, almost to the point they were starting from scratch. For the most part, a team can sign a couple of stars to maximum contracts and fill out the roster with a few better than average players. However, Dwyane Wade, a superstar player I enjoyed watching prior to this fiasco, took less than the maximum contract available to him during the 2010 free agency period. Chris Bosh and Lebron James, both superstar players and signed as part of sign-and-trade deals, also signed for much less than the maximum contract available to them. So now the Heat have three players that could have received maximum contracts if they stayed with their original teams or signed elsewhere, playing for less money than they were “entitled” to as part of the collective bargaining agreement. I use the term “entitled” generously as they’re not entitled to anything, although the three of them have acted like they’re entitled to a championship since making the decision a couple years ago. I would venture to say they put themselves into a no-win situation. If they win a championship, it was expected they would do so. If they don’t win a championship, they grossly underperformed. Unless other players are willing to take less than the market will bear and team up to play for the same team, no other team will be able to match the Heat in talent year in and year out for years to come.
In the end, the Heat were able to fit more talent under the salary cap than other teams are able to, giving them a decided talent edge over other teams in the league. That talent edge is where there’s a parallel between the Heat and the Yankees. They both use the current system to give themselves a decided edge. The edge doesn’t guarantee success in the form of a championship, but there’s little chance the Heat won’t contend for a championship every year, even if one of their superstars goes down with an injury. With the amount of money the players left on the table in order to play together, they should win championships every year. And now that they’ve won a championship, I’m not impressed they did. It was expected. They should have won a championship. And even if they win multiple championships, I still won’t put them in the same historical category of the Bull or Lakers of recent past.