Déjà vu: The Heat’s backs are pinned against the wall as the NBA Finals head from Texas to Miami for Game 6.
Two years ago, the Mavericks put on their best black suits and finished their business, closing out the Heat in AmericanAirlines Arena before opening up a $90,000 bottle of champagne in a Miami Beach nightclub. Mavs fans surely have mixed emotions as the Spurs prepare for their chance to repeat that feat and clinch their fifth NBA title in 15 years.
This series, pitting the Mavs’ two primary rivals during Dallas’ dozen-year playoff run, represented the worst-case scenario for rooting interests around these parts. Folks here hate the Heat, plain and simple. They begrudgingly respect their Interstate 35 rivals -- the Spurs are a lot harder to hate now that Bruce Bowen is talking for ESPN instead of tripping jump-shooters, huh? -- but they actually have to interact with San Antonio fans and sure don’t want those yahoos to have another title to scream about.
Chief MFFL Mark Cuban has made it clear that he’d prefer for the Spurs to prevail. That’s a small dose of Lone Star State pride and a heaping helping of intense Heat hatred talking.
That deep-seated hatred is understandable for Dallas basketball fans. After all, Dwyane Wade and the Heat not only ripped the Larry O’Brien Trophy out of the Mavs’ hands in 2006, but they did so in especially painful fashion, with the assistance of dozens of whistles that have fueled more conspiracy theories than JFK’s assassination. And Wade had the nerve to rub it in months later, publicly dissing Dirk Nowitzki’s clutch chops and leadership skills.
Oh, and during the title rematch five years later, Wade, a man who holds the NBA record for milking drama out of injuries and ailments, had the nerve to mock Dirk’s cough after the face of the Mavs’ franchise delivered a Finals game-winner despite a three-figure temperature. LeBron James made the PR mistake of playing along with Wade in that instance – less than a year after making the biggest PR miscalculation in modern sports history, breaking up with his hometown by infamously using “The Decision” to tell the world that he intended to take his talents to South Beach to join forces with Wade and Chris Bosh.
That tremendously tone-deaf decision ensured that the Heat would be among the most polarizing teams in NBA history. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and that isn’t a difficult decision in Dallas.
I get that … but the Heat winning enhances the historical importance of the Mavs’ first title.
If the Heat fulfill LeBron’s post-signing, pep-rally promise to claim multiple championships, the 2011 Mavs will always be remembered as the team that delayed the dynasty. There’s a decent chance, depending on LeBron’s decision next summer, that the Mavs could be the lone team to eliminate King James’ Miami crew.
That’s a heck of a piece of history. That ought to trump Heat hate, but then again, it’s hard to judge another man’s hatred.