LeBron James has always been a love him or hate him figure in the NBA. You either love him and appreciate his greatness and dominance in the game, or you hate how he ditched his hometown team in Cleveland to join his friends/fellow superstars in Miami in pursuit of the easy route to a championship. The Miami Heat recently had their 27-game winning streak snapped and this streak was no different than the perception of James himself ─ either cheered on or rooted against despite the greatness. As polarizing as LeBron and Heat streak is and was, you cannot deny the excellence and that we may never see something like this again.
Too many times we as fans are “prisoners of the moment,” and make an event or an athlete bigger than it actually is because it is so fresh in our minds. For example, compared to Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, especially during the turn of the century, stood as the best golfer ever because of his dominance, fire and determination to win. Most Tiger fans argued that he was already better than Nicklaus and that he will eventually win the most majors. However, we could not fully appreciate Jack’s greatness because it was a relatively distant memory and no one could have projected the struggles Tiger would endure in the past couple of years. In the case of the Miami Heat 27-game winning streak, there seems to be a reverse effect lingering here. We are under-appreciating what the Heat just accomplished.
What the Miami Heat did by winning 27 consecutive regular season games has only been achieved once, when the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won 33 consecutive games. And in that era there were only eight main teams in the league. All the superstars were piled onto fewer teams instead of being so spread out. The game was less evolved. Who knows what the Heat may have done back then or in the future. The bottom line is it is very possible that the Heat streak might never be done again. If we were told this as a fact, what would we then think? Most of us, especially those who rooted for them to lose, would feel pretty stupid. As humans, we naturally appreciate something more once it’s gone and never coming back.
With the parity that exists in the NBA today, the Heat’s streak is a mind-boggling accomplishment, however it was not fully embraced due to the polarizing effect that LeBron James has had among NBA fans. In this sense, we were not and are not enough of “prisoners” of this moment.
Let us examine 27 games in a row in the NBA compared to other feats. To accomplish this at the highest level of competition cannot be understated. Maybe compared to high school and college winning streaks, it’s not as potent. However, let’s not forget that the Patriots had their 18-game winning streak snapped when they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl in pursuit of a perfect season. 27 games represents one-third of the NBA regular season. Let me repeat. One-third! There are currently seven NBA teams entering April 9 that do not have more than 27 wins for the entire season and the season is virtually over. Congratulations to the Timberwolves, Raptors and Wizards. You avoided this embarrassing category with 29 wins for the season.
For the Heat, once they won 20 games, every game had the hype that is typically reserved for the playoffs. SportsCenter previewed every game as if it was a Final Four game. When has Dwyane Wade sitting out a home game against the Bobcats been such a big deal? For a mediocre NBA season in terms of storylines and great quality teams, the Heat streak has been the highlight of the 2012-2013 NBA season. It generated more attention and draw from basketball fans and non-basketball fans. It kept the defending champions interested and gave them an incentive to care about the regular season.
The streak ended fittingly on the road against the Bulls as the wind was taken out of the sails of the Heat. Many people were sad and upset because they wanted to witness history. Many people were happy because LeBron failed and did not get to notch another accomplishment under his belt. It would have been interesting to see the attention of a streak like this done by another NBA team. Maybe the Lakers or Thunder or even the Knicks would have received similar attention, but that’s it. The fact of the matter is that this streak was not glorified as much as it should have been because it involved LeBron James and the defending champion Heat. In a vacuum, however, this streak needs to be worshipped and praised for how amazing a feat it was. This streak may never be accomplished ever again in the NBA, maybe in any sport as well. The Heat streak may be over, but its legacy could last forever.
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