In every level of sports, there’s a team that fans just love to hate. In college basketball there’s the Duke Blue Devils. In the NFL there’s the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. In baseball there’s the New York Yankees. And in basketball there’s the Los Angeles Lakers and now, the newly christened Miami Heat, who have perhaps even surpassed their Westside counterparts as most hated group around the league. The difference between the Heat and the rest of those clubs is that aside from one championship season that most have quickly forgotten, the Heat haven’t really hosted enough banners to claim them as marked men. So what gives?
Well, when you host a championship celebration, proclaim yourselves as champions and run off how many championships you’re going to win before practice even starts, it just gets the blood boiling among your common basketball browsers. When Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces last summer, a new powerhouse was erected. Sure, with two megastars and one solid star, Miami was expected to stomp the puny teams, close out the good teams and hang close with the great ones and have fans marveling at their excellence—at least that’s what was expected.
So far, Miami’s stomped the puny teams, lost to the good ones and been exposed by the great ones while fans have marveled in their misery. Amazing how two of the most celebrated stars over the last few seasons of the NBA in Wade and James have gone from most-liked to most-I-can’t-stand. James and Wade, two players with amazing talents, athleticism and charisma, now find themselves in the unfamiliar role of villains for the first time in their careers, and not surprisingly, they’re cracking under the reality of it all.
There was a time when James and Wade singlehandedly converted fans over to their respected ball clubs, winning fans over with their youthful skills. There was never such a thing as a Cleveland Cavalier fan before James entered the league in 2003. The Miami Heat had success in the late 1990s but the entrance of Wade in the ’03 draft provided them with a new star and main attraction to pump their franchise. Eight years later, as joined forces and allies, Wade and James still sell out arenas (even if it’s not their own) but the crowds aren’t as friendly. The cheers have turned to jeers and for some reason, they act surprised.
“The Miami Heat are doing exactly what everyone wanted, losing games,” a sarcastic and somber Wade said after Miami’s latest setback of their now four-game losing streak, a 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls on March 6. “The world’s better now because the Heat are losing.”
No, Dwyane, the world’s not better, just happier. We used to weep for Wade when he was playing with garbage after Miami’s ’06 title. We clamored for Cleveland to find James some help when he kept getting bounced in the playoffs. But now, we don’t worry anymore. We no longer request help for Wade or James. We don’t hang posters or purchase sneakers or laugh at their funny Nike commercials with the same starry gleam in our eyes. We no longer cheer for them to win. Instead, we simply laugh when they lose—a fact that’s hitting hard for the two heroes of yesterday.