Every sport has a team that everyone loves, hates, or loves to hate. What makes the Miami Heat fit into this category?
I'm not breaking news or telling you anything you don't know by saying the Miami Heat are the NBA's most polarizing team.
They've clearly taken over the Los Angeles Lakers spot as the team everyone loves, hates, or loves to hate. Or hates to love. I don't know, but you get the idea.
It got me wondering why, aside from the obvious. Unless you're a moron, you have poor memory, or you just don't watch professional basketball, here are just a handful of things the Heat has done to put a target on the team's collective back.
1. The Decision. This isn't so much a team thing as it was an individual thing, which I think makes it worse. Sports fans will likely never forget that night in July where LeBron James, the most coveted 2010 free agent and de facto "Chosen One," was to decide where he would play the next couple of years in his already religiously monitored career.
The rest, as they say, is all history. James broke up with his first love and essential hometown, Cleveland, on national television, with no heads up or hinted at inclination to basically divorce his commitment of seven years to go play with his boys.
Cleveland could do nothing but watch, and bear "witness" to what happened.
He basically turned the Cavaliers into the Jennifer Aniston to his Brad Pitt. He left the small town type girl with that humble charm for the sexy, exotic, borderline poisonous, Angelina Jolie, i.e. Miami. It's not like the city of Cleveland wasn't already the sports equivalent to Aniston, in that there's always this brittle hope that the city has a chance at success and a long-term commitment with a star, only to be brought up to the point of fruition and then slammed right back down to the lonely cellar. Must be rough.
Cavs fans were obviously hurt by their savior, their Chosen One, leaving the team he single-handedly brought to relevance and contention, but the rest of the NBA fans hated not that he left, but the way he did it.
2. "Not one, not two, not three…" As hated as "The Decision" was, the immediate celebration thereafter REALLY rubbed people the wrong way. James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh (the third wheel/co-conspirator) danced around on stage, wearing their new Heat threads, flexing and acting a fool for Miami. James then went on to say the Heat would win, "Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…" NBA titles.
Charles Barkley called it all kinds of things, namely "silly," and of course, "turrible." If you haven't seen it, you MUST. You'll surely hate them a little bit more for it.
3. The sympathy train frequents Miami. James, previously the NBA's good guy and hero, obviously wasn't ready to be dawned the "bad guy" and villain of the league. He begged for sympathy any way he could without saying, "Please like me again!"
Any time the Heat would lose a game, he'd let it out on some media outlet. He'd say things along the lines of "now everyone's happy since were losing," or "no one wants us to succeed," or "I'm the bad guy." Again, just paraphrased, but Wade and James sung that song like it was a No. 1 single, which of course got people sick of hearing their incessant whining. Hey, if you ask for a rainy day, you better have an umbrella with you.
4. Mocking a sick Dirk Nowitzki in the NBA Finals. As if Wade and James hadn't done enough already, they thought it would wise, or funny, to mock the ailing Nowitzki during the 2011 Finals. Either they thought he was faking or milking a slight cough, but they were intent on letting people know they thought it was lame with their tomfoolery.
The Dallas star struggled through the flu and came up with some late-game heroics (kind of the story of the postseason) to tie the series at 2-2. Dallas didn't lose another game, and Nowitzki was tied in with the all-timers.
He also drew comparisons to Michael Jordan (because of the Finals "flu game"). Ironic that Dirk drew the MJ comparisons, as they now have something in common, not LeBron.
5. We have to return to our measly lives. To make things EVEN WORSE, if seemingly possible at this point, the Heat were sore losers and cried about losing a title they all but had locked in a Game 2 choke job. Literally, Bosh actually cried walking back to the losing locker room.
I'm not sure Wade and James were more pissed about losing, or the fact that most of America was happy they lost. James let it all out, in classy and professional fashion. (Obvious sarcasm).
"All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. 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 that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point."
He really has no room to be a sore sport. After all, his poor play and absence in the fourth quarter of games led them to lose.
So, not only is he whining about losing, and everyone's elation with it, he proceeds to belittle the average Joe and his seemingly meaningless life. And he gets to go on with his life: rich, famous, partying in South Beach. Very sportsmanlike.
6. This isn't really a reason to hate the Heat, as much as it is my personal issue with the way things have fallen into place.
Notice throughout this piece I've referred to the dynamic duo as "Wade and James" and not "James and Wade." This is maybe the biggest issue I have with the two.
Separate, I loved both Wade and James. They were some of my favorite players. Together, I can't stand them. From their whininess to their sense of entitlement, to their arrogance, to their feeling that people owe them something, I'm sick of them.
But more importantly, with the two of them together, Wade has kind of emerged as the alpha male. After all, Miami was his city first, and he's the one with the title. James just followed, something we've never seen him do before, his friends to Miami.
As a fan of NBA lore, watching James defer is the most painful part of this experiment. His legacy, as we the masses ideally had it, has withered before our eyes. We wanted him to be the "Chosen One," the next Michael, this generation's greatest. We wanted him to be Batman, and watch Robin and Nightwing follow him to wherever his destination may be. Nobody wanted LeBron to be Robin. Nobody.
But again, this isn't a reason to hate him or the Heat, and it's really a selfish reason to dislike his choice. Maybe James would prefer to be the Magic Johnson. That's not a knock at all. Magic is one of the league's greatest of all time. But I know most people feel how I feel. I wanted the next MJ, or at least something like it.
Again, that's not accounting for James' wants, and essentially it's itemizing him as a thing rather than person. It is, after all, his life to live. But his joining Miami single-handedly removes him from talks of being the greatest ever, or even being the "guy," the No. 1 option on his own team. But, whatever.
Seeing him struggle in the clutch hurts to watch, too. He was chided for passing too much even in Cleveland, and deferring in crucial moments, but people sort of overlooked it and called him a good teammate. Now, the tables have turned, and being a good teammate is replaced by words of hate. The likes of "scared" and "choke artist" are what we've grown accustomed to hearing in James' days in Miami.
After transcribing all that, I noticed a key element to every entry I put, a consistency, if you will.
LeBron James was at the center of each and every reason why people hate the Heat. There's no two ways about it. There's no denying, he's the best player in the league right now, even if it means you have to take crunch time out of this judgment.
Is he the main reason people hate the Heat? What is it that we really despise about the team? Supposedly, time heals all wounds, and at this point, you'd think people would let up a little bit about Miami, but that's not the case.
It got me to thinking, what is it people hate so much about this team? I decided to make a checklist, and compare them to other teams across the big three sports people love to hate.
If you're wondering how your team measures up, just use this guide. Let's take a look:
1. A player that everyone hates.
When people bring up the New York Yankees, most people scowl or roll their eyes. When asked what they hate most about the Yanks, the top answers always seem to be a) their payroll, b) the late George Steinbrenner, and c) Alex Rodriguez.
Nothing gets people's panties in a wad like hearing about A-Rod. No matter what he does, people view it in a negative light.
He does steroids, people get pissed, reasonably so. He plays well, people get pissed, reasonably so (if you hate the Yankees). He plays poorly, people get pissed, which makes no sense (unless you're a Yankees fan). He dates Madonna, people get pissed, which makes no sense (unless you're grossed out by 60+-year-old women tonguing an athlete in his mid-30s). Cameron Diaz feeds him popcorn at the Super Bowl, people get pissed. What?! Why?! Shouldn't he be applauded, or earn some kind of player points for that? Guess not.
Even the Lakers have this going on with Kobe Bryant. I can't stand the guy, but I do feel for him. He scores 81 points, which is truly remarkable, and the first thing people ask is, "Yeah, well how many assists did he have?" He scores eight points, but has 12 assists and 15 rebounds, he sucks. He shoots too much, he doesn't shoot enough, he's a ball hog, he's an asshole. While most of this is true, the guy doesn't get a break. Ever.
Granted, there's the whole Denver sexual assault issue, and the fact that he quite obviously quit on his team against the Phoenix Suns in Game 7 in the 2007 playoffs, but still. He's usually public enemy No. 1.
You can say the same with the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo. He doesn't get it as bad as Bryant or A-Rod, but he gets his fair share.
The team loses, it's always his fault. The team wins, it's because of somebody else. Admittedly, I've been known to be critical of him, because I find him pretty overrated, and he ALWAYS chokes in the big moment, but dude can't catch a break, either. He's really not that bad, but the American consensus is that he sucks. Even his own fans rip Tony "Oh-no."
And what about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady? All he does is exhibit damn-near perfection, and date a Victoria's Secret model.
Now moving on to the Miami Heat.
Not only does the team have a player everyone hates, you can argue they have three.
James is the obvious leader in this category, but Wade by far doesn't get off easy.
Even Bosh gets some looks here. I really don't have much of an issue with him, at all, but some people view him as guilty by association. It was crazy how happy people were when they saw him crying on national television.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: A player that everyone hates [X]
2. A coach, GM, or other authority figure everyone hates.
The Yankees had Steinbrenner, who would fire and re-hire anyone. He'd break the bank on any player he wanted and got his way, whenever, and, really, however he wanted.
The Lakers had Phil Jackson, whose 11 titles lead all NBA coaches. The debate over Jackson is that he could only win titles with the best players, i.e. MJ and Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant. Some say he's the greatest coach ever, while others say he's the most overrated coach ever.
The Cowboys have Jerry Jones, who is the totalitarian leader of the team. Owner, GM, hell, basically the coach, too. Some say he even acts as team mom, but this is subject to debate.
The Patriots have Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest football coach of all time. A guilty member of the Spygate scandal, Belichick invites animosity with his strange, "plain-jane" approach to interviews, his savant-like understanding of the game, and his now infamous hoodies.
This is where the case with the Heat finds a gray area. I mean, do we really hate Pat Riley? Some do, some don't. Do we really hate Erik Spoelstra? How can you hate a video guy turned head coach? Some people say his inexperience, or the appearance of inexperience, with this experienced, win-now roster don't really go together. But is that a reason to hate him?
Either way, when these two open their mouths, most people dislike what they have to say.
Let's chalk this one up to a push.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: A coach, GM, or other authority figure everyone hates [1/2 X]
3. A big market, or overall city people just seem to despise.
The Yankees play in the big apple. This is the pinnacle of arrogance and the blowhard capital of, maybe, the world. Being the top market, you're bound to reel in some haters.
The Lakers play in L.A., the consensus utopia of the United States. Nonstop, we hear about how great the weather is, how beautiful the people are, how awesome and rich everyone that lives there is. How can you NOT hate a team that seems to embrace all of this at once?
The Cowboys play in Dallas, Texas. Because of its independence, arrogance, and Southern charm, Texas gets a LOT of haters. We're all stereotyped as horse-riding, barbecue-eating, snuff-chewing hicks. Throw in the cowboy-hat toting, rich oil tycoons, and Texas is just begging to be hated. Dallas is one of the top two markets in the state and has good teams in all the top three professional sports, so this adds to the cause.
The Patriots play in Foxborough, but the team is, by default, Boston's team. What's not to hate about Boston? How is it possible to have the small-town feel, but at the same time be populated by arrogant, rich assholes? The Red Sox EXEMPLIFY this with their "we're the anti-Yankee, the cause against the evil empire, support us! Never mind our payroll is just barely less than the Yankees, or that we, too, exude cockiness." The contradictions are ridiculous.
Miami has a little bit of all of these. The city is a party mecca, most of the people are rich, it's a top-tier market, pretty good weather, the inhabitants are arrogant.
Many athletes decide to play in Miami just for the partying and proximity to South Beach alone.
While all these places are nice to visit and probably even better to live in, for those that haven't been there or probably never will, the negative sentiments only pile on.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: A big market, or overall city people just seem to despise [X]
4. An obnoxious fanbase.
Like I said earlier, New York is basically the blowhard capital of the world. Why? Because the fans never shut their mouths. Ever. The Giants were bragging about a Super Bowl before they even beat the San Francisco 49ers, and they won't shut up about this one until next February. Hell, they still talk about Super Bowl XLII. Yankees' fans are no different.
Lakers fans beat you over the head incessantly about how awesome their team is, and how great it is to be a Lakers fan. They also actually think Kobe Bryant is comparable to MJ. Absurd, isn't it?
Cowboys fans overdo it more than any other fanbase, ever. They don't shut up about how many championships their team has, nevermind the 49ers are their equal and the Pittsburgh Steelers actually have more, nor the fact that they haven't won but one playoff game over the last 15 years. They'll remind you how their team is the best, even when it clearly isn't, and how other teams just cheat. Ridiculous.
Patriots fans mostly reside in Boston, like I said before. All the reasons to hate them, I said above.
The peculiar thing about Heat fans is that they barely exist. Not in Miami, anyways. It's said that the seats don't fill till near halftime, and South Beach itself is a better attraction than the Heat.
What's worse is how the fans are fair-weather fans, i.e. they only exist when the team is doing well. That may well be the most hatable thing of ANY fan base.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: An obnoxious fanbase [X]
5. A bandwagon following.
Just about everyone you know has a Yankees fitted, even if he/she couldn't name one player. People who don't watch baseball will tell you, when asked, the Bronx Bombers are their favorite team, just because.
The same can be said of the Lakers. Somebody's got a Lakers snapback somewhere in their room, just because that's the "in" thing to do.
The Cowboys not only get bandwagon fans at their finest, but they even have an entire extra country backing them. In case you didn't know, Mexico's unofficial NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys. This also applies with basically every bordertown in existence.
The Patriots don't seem to get as many bandwagon fans as the teams listed above, but that's mainly because everyone thinks Bostonians are assholes, so screw them. Not my feelings, but usually, that's the consensus.
The Heat are no exception to weak bandwagon fans. The home city, Miami, is already full of fair-weather fans, and the rest of the country is no different.
There are countless tweets and Facebook posts populating my feed, full of malarkey about "That's right! My Heat won tonight! What's up, bro?! I told y'all!"
Yes, your Heat, the same team who, just the season before, were led by D-Wade and his tenacious supporting cast of Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, and the great Michael Beasley. I forgot, you sure were repping "your" team back then.
And yes, you "told" us. Told us what, that they'd be good? Any mentally challenged child or idiot that doesn't know the difference between the Heat and the Dolphins could logically tell you that combining three players who are the best, or at least in the top five, at their respective positions could anchor a winning team. Bravo!
Verdict for the Miami Heat: A bandwagon following [X]
6. Frontrunners on the roster.
By this I mean any player who puffs his chest playing for the league's nastiest team, who thinks he's hot stuff because of the talented committee around him, not because of his accomplishments, who would whimper like a wet dog in the presence of Michael Vick if he were traded to the Washington Wizards.
Every elite team has at least one or two of these players on the roster. You know the type: he talks an unbelievable amount of noise, boasts about how good his team is any chance he gets, starts faux fights with other teams, where he barks in an opposing player's face, backs off when the other player shoves, and only starts swinging and exhibiting his toughness when one of his teammates decides to hold him back. I hate this guy, and you do, too.
The Lakers could've taught a class on this type of player in the Shaq and Kobe heydays. Rick Fox would've been the Dean of this college, and Derek Fisher, Devean George, and Brian Shaw would've been his department chairs.
With baseball, this is a little tough to judge, so it's hard for me to point these players out with the Yankees. Besides, they've had a bigger history with stars coming to New York, choking, leaving the team, then somehow rising back to stardom (Carl Pavano, Xavier Nady, Javier Vasquez, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, the list goes on).
The Cowboys have a handful of these characters, too. Terrell Owens was their biggest star, to this accord. Although he actually had a lot to do with their winning, he was essentially the cause of their recent demise.
The Pats had Brandon Meriweather, who got in so much trouble with the law, you'd think he played for the Bengals. He also took on some fines for rough hits.
When it comes to frontrunners in the NBA, Miami leads the league in this stat. Where were Chalmers and Haslem before James and Bosh joined the team? Why do they have such a fiery competitiveness only now, when they have the big boys on the block, but were about as tenacious as a chihuahua before then? And what about Mike Miller? He got into several almost scuffles in the Finals, yet he was really just mailing it in for a paycheck out in Memphis and Washington.
When it comes to people talking noise because they know whose got their back, the Heat take the cake. Let's see how demonstrative Haslem and Chalmers would be if they went to Charlotte.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: Frontrunners on the roster [X]
What's the point in hating a boisterous, arrogant team with an annoying, mob of a fanbase if the team sucks?
Hello, why do you think animosity towards to the Cowboys has died down?
The Lakers have won 16 NBA Championships, second only to the Celtics, and remain a title threat in the foreseeable future.
The Cowboys have five Super Bowl titles, tied with the 49ers, only behind the Steelers' six.
The Patriots have just three, but they've all come in the last 10 years, and they were a few flukey plays away from having five, all in this decade alone.
The Yankees? Haha. Why even ask? They have 27 World Series titles, more championships than any American franchise in any sport. They won one just in 2009, and look poised to get another this year.
This is where the Heat are lacking. Though they won in 2006, this was before they were the monster they were today. In fact, when they won, they had the lovable Shaq, a young, fiery Wade, and a bunch of other veterans who didn't win rings anywhere but Miami.
But they were humble, and they took down the Mavs and their cocky owner, Mark Cuban, after being down 2-0 (and several Wade heroics away from being down 3-0).
Since the inception of this new Heat regime, the team has gone 86-32, lost a NBA title, and looks like the favorite to win the next couple of Larry O'Brien trophies. That's pretty damn good, but until they win a title, you can't really dawn them a successful unit.
The sample size is VERY small, however, as they haven't even been together a full two seasons, and are playing in a shortened lockout year. Either way, they don't qualify for this yet, but the verdict is still out.
Verdict for the Miami Heat: Success [incomplete]
If you're wondering how your team measures up, just give a point per check on this list. I'd say anything above 75 percent is a hatable team, and anyone over 90 percent is downright resented.
Going over the checklist, you'll see the Heat scored 5.5/7, which is about 79 percent. Something tells me after a few seasons, they'll be at a full 7/7, meaning they'll win a few titles here and there, and at some point, either Riley will come down from the owners box to coach again, or Spoelstra will become an egotist because of his success at the helm of this team, as if even I couldn't coach a team with James, Wade, and Bosh to a title.
While a true review of the Heat remains incomplete, it's safe to say they're the NBA's team to hate. Just ask Kobe. While he embraced the villain role to the fullest, I bet it's a relief knowing he and his team are no longer Public Enemy No. 1.
That title belongs to the Heat. That is, until LeBron goes back to Cleveland./a