by: Gian Lao
Gian is a dyed-in-the-wool Heat ‘supporter’ (he refuses to be called a mere fan). This gave me fits last year when he ‘in-your-faced’ me however subtly after Miami’s epic miracle win. I am – after all – a proud Spurs fan. I do feel some sort of compassion for his team, after those humiliating blowouts in games 3 to 5. (Sorry, Gian, just had to rub it in a bit.) So now, before my magnanimity deserts me, before I become lucid once again, here’s Gian’s piece to all grieving Heat lovers out there. My salute, Gian, goes to the Heat for having been a worthy opponent; and to you, for being a great supporter. Keep those flames burning!!
It’s over. We’ve lost. I imagine our championship “three-peat” shirts are now in large, wooden crates, being delivered to impoverished countries (hey, at least they’re making some people smile). No street parades for our team; no more smug status messages on Facebook about the greatness of LeBron; no more Chris Bosh pouring champagne on himself as if he were a fully immersed participant in an X-Art video. Obligatory:
If you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely devastated, and now have an irrational hatred for air-conditioning systems. And perhaps like me, you’re also looking for sources of comfort, or in other words, what to think of to woo-zah yourself back to sleep after waking at three in the morning with cold sweat, thinking about Danny Green 3-pointers.
The first is that we lost to the Spurs—a team that played basketball in a way that made our trapping defense look like it was invented by middle schoolers.They’re also quite possibly the least hated championship team in history. They have one of the best coaches of all-time, both on the court and in the pressroom. They have the best power forward of all-time, who keeps baffling doubters every year—“how long will he keep turning back the clock?” The Spurs did it with zero lottery picks too, apart from Tim Duncan, thanks to the genius of R.C. Buford and the rest of the Spurs front office. And hey, did you see Kawhi Leonard’s smile once or twice? Losing to such a team can really summon the sportsmanship out of you.
But no, not really. I can’t speak for everyone, but as I do my best to lose with grace and applaud “basketball the way it’s supposed to be played,” I can’t help but feel, deep within myself: Who gives a shit about the Spurs? To hell with Tim Duncan, that boring, geriatric, never-committed-a-foul-in-his-life nitwit. To hell with Tony Parker, that bigamist, baguette-eating douche. And to hell with Manu Ginobili and his layups; that’s not how a real man scores! (See how I’m grasping at straws here to find ways to hate these guys?) My team lost and I want to bury my head in my LeBron James pillow and let the misery accumulate around my bed. I want to kick Skip Bayless in the teeth. I want to call Dwyane Wade and beg him to opt out and take a contract equivalent to his current, diminished superpowers.
Seriously, though, how can anyone deny that the Spurs’ victory is good for basketball? Of course it is. Of course the Spurs winning will help convince younger generations of the necessity of teamwork, unity of purpose, and boring basketball (I had to). But I, along with several other Heat supporters, simply hate when the Heat lose, we reserve the right to be angry, irrational, and sad. For a day or two, at least.
Perhaps what allows me to leave the confines of my room—and what allows me to go back on forums like /r/nba—is traveling back in time and asking myself: What the hell were the Miami Heat doing in 2009? I remember my anguish. We were in purgatory—unable to get out of the first round; plus, our second best player was Michael Beasley. We were wasting the prime of an all-time great. Don’t get me wrong, I support everyone who’s given part of himself to the team, and that includes occasional 2007-2009 starters Chris Quinn and Yakhouba Diawara, but those guys simply don’t even begin to measure up to the Heat role players of past years: Mike Miller, Shane Battier, RayAllen, and Birdman.
It wasn’t the first time it happened. In the summer of 2004, Heat supporters were bickering about who to take 19th in the NBA Draft. My personal thoughts were: World to Pat Riley, Jameer Nelson was available. Dorell Wright isn’t gonna be useful for a really longtime. Dwyane Wade isn’t a pure point guard. Eddie Jones and Brian Grant are getting old. But before we knew it, Shaquille O’Neal was taking his talents to South Beach. Uhuh. The Shaq. Kazaam. The Big Aristotle. Jameer who? True, perhaps he was in the latter part of his prime, but it was enough for two deep runs in the playoffs and the franchise’s first championship. And that one championship meant everything. We were happy. That was the last time I doubted Pat Riley.
I don’t need to narrate how this Heat team we now have was assembled. Obviously, we’ve overhauled our expectations from the beginning of the 09-10 season. But really—three championships in less than ten years? A prolonged sadness because of this year’s loss would quite simply be bratty. On the bright side, it’s likely that we’ll still have the best player in the league next year. We still have a front office led by the Don, Patrick James Riley. We have a promising young coach who has the potential to be an NBA coaching institution a decade or two from now, Philippino Jackson himself.
To all Heat supporters, new or old: You probably already know this, but in case you need reminding, our team has treated us well. You might have noticed that I’m allergic to the word “fan,” and instead prefer “supporter.” That’s because I think that word—supporter—is an apt reminder of our role in the franchise—it’s to cheer the damn team on. Not to boo the players who have brought us two championships, and who have shared our triumphs and disappointments. Not to walk out when the team’s losing by a lot—which is actually the moment when they need our support the most. This offseason, no matter what happens on the trade/free agent front, one thing is certain: Our Miami Heat will be trying to get even better at basketball. It should be the same for us. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t try to become better supporters.
To the supporters who started watching the Heat because of LeBron James: I invite you to continue being Heat supporters in the coming years, regardless of what happens. Those guys calling you bandwagoners? Let them be. Remind yourself that it is always better to be for something—even if that thing is the Milwaukee Bucks—than to simply be against something. It doesn’t matter how you come to like a team; it only matters if you stay. So stay. I promise you, there will always something to be excited about—whether it’s the draft, the prospect of signing Carmelo Anthony and pissing off the entire league all over again, the constant scheming of Pat Riley, or simply anticipating the first tip off of the season. It is always exciting. That’s the beauty of following this team. We try to win—and whatever adversity or disappointment we face, it never lasts too long.
(Photos courtesy of bleacher report, ussportsdownunder.com, sbnation.com, miamiherald.com, nba.si.com, philstar.com)