It may be hard to believe, but the big three in Miami have not only come together, they have won the last two NBA finals, proving that superstars can create a superpower and win. This phenomenon began with the big Aristotle, Shaquille O’Neal’s 2004 move to Miami to pair with a budding young superstar named Dwyane Wade. Their time together would result in a trip to the finals the first year, and the Larry O’Brien trophy the next.
Another group of marquee guys would come together in Boston a couple of years later in Kevin Garnet, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Many thought at the time that this collaboration of talent would dominate the league for the foreseeable future, but this big three would only win one title in 2008 before disbanding a few years later. The word was getting out though that this coming together of all-stars could actually end in a parade and some fashionable jewelry, and so in 2010, LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade to create an even stronger incarnation of the big three, and where the previous combinations of mega talent ended in one and done, the stars of Miami aligned both figuratively and literally.
After a rough start, the Heat found their groove, winning back to back titles in 2012 and 2013. However, trouble may lie on the horizon for the Heat faithful. In 2014, both LeBron James and Chris Bosh have opt-out clauses in their contracts making them eligible for free agency and making Heat fans fret with fear at the possibilities. We have compiled six scenarios that could arise from what will surely be a tumultuous year for the city of Miami.
6. Wade’s Injury Issues
His driver’s license says that Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. is only 32 years old, but his body is saying something quite different. “D. Wade” has cemented his legacy with slick play and a slew of NBA titles, however, his body has cemented its legacy with a slew of knee injuries and the end result for this talented guard could be an early exit from basketball. In regards to his knee problems, ESPN reports that, “with hindsight, Dwyane Wade says surgery to remove the meniscus from his left knee 11 years ago while he was at Marquette led to the ongoing knee problems he’s had with the Miami Heat.” In addition to knee issues, Wade was hampered by a shoulder injury in his first title run with Shaquille O’Neal, and back problems have pained him for years. He missed double digit games season after season, and according to NBC Sports, D. Wade has only played in 51 games during the 2013-2014 campaign. While he may be one of the most talented in the game, these chronic ailments could force this Miami legend to face the reality that his days both in a Heat uniform, and on the hardwood, may be numbered. Will this be reason enough for his contemporaries to find another venue to play in; maybe, just maybe…
5. Will King James Decide to Move on?
If LeBron James has shown us anything, it’s that he IS a true champion and a proven winner; quite a different script from his string of failures back in the Buckeye State. Surrounded by mediocrity, #23 still managed to lead his team to the playoffs, only to get kicked to the curb time and time again. King James has finally shaken the ramifications of “the decision” from a few years ago and does he really want to revisit another drama made for daytime television? LeBron has stated publicly that he loves Miami and wants to remain, but he has already brought the land of the beautiful people back to back titles, so what is the next challenge for Jordan’s heir apparent; a trip out West to suit up in the purple and gold…
4. Return to his Home-Town Franchise?
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported that, “Last season, James issued an olive branch to his former fans by talking about returning to play for the Cavs someday. And in the meantime, Kyrie Irving, a friend of James, has emerged as the young star the Cavs never had and always wanted alongside LeBron.” With that said, there is not a chance in Hades… While it may be a sentimental move for the King and his hometown fans, LeBron would just be returning to a franchise who kept promising him the moon, only to reward him with cheese year after year. Why would he believe anything has changed? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
The Cavs have continued to be the puddle in the gutters of the National Basketball Association from the moment that James traded in his #23 for the #6 of the Heat. This is really the equivalent of someone who, as a teen, works at McDonalds, goes on to college to become a rich and successful corporate exec at a fortune 500 firm, and then decides that home is where the heart is and returns to the golden arches for $8 an hour and all the happy meals he can eat. It will never happen…
3. How Much Longer Will Bosh be Willing to be Third String?
The player who wears #1 is really anything but with the Heat. The Center/Power Forward was the franchise for the Toronto Raptors from 2003-2009. He was a five-time All Star and was selected to play on the Olympic Team where he took home the gold medal. He became the leader of an organization that had not done much in their existence, and carried them to their very first division title in franchise history. However, his arrival in Miami changed his status from franchise star to third stringer with people questioning his position as one of the big three at every opportunity.
In the past four seasons, #1 is only averaging 17 points per game; good numbers, but not franchise player numbers. On the plus side of things, he has already taken home consecutive NBA titles, cementing his place in history as a champion. We just have to wonder whether Bosh will want to move on and cement his place in history as a franchise player once again…
2. Can Bosh Step Up and Take Over the Heat?
Even though Bosh was the franchise player for the Toronto Raptors, his performance in Miami has not lived up to franchise status, and many wondered if he was overrated upon his arrival as one of the big three. In 2009, his final year with the Raptors, Chris scored 1678 points, but that production would drop dramatically over the coming years. In 2010, Bosh scored 240 points fewer than the previous season, and 2011- 2013 saw an average of 1151 points per campaign. There are those that will speculate that his offensive output was dramatically decreased due to the need to spread the wealth amongst the other two franchise guys, but one also has to wonder if there is more too this. Bosh himself is not a spring chicken, having been in the league for 11 years so the question must be asked if he, like Wade, is in a state of decline.
1. If King James and Chris Bosh Leave, What Does That Mean for Miami?
If James and Bosh decide it better to play out the string in another climate, then Miami can expect a return to the days of losing to the Knicks, and everyone else, in the first round of the playoffs. As it stands now, it was Dwyane Wade, along with one Big Aristotle Shaquille O’Neal, who was finally able to take the heat past the minor leagues and into the stuff of legend. However, Wade’s body has shown that time is limited for the guard on the hardcourt, and any further winning for the sunshine state must include #6 and #1 to help carry the load. Heat fans should prepare themselves for the very real possibility that their team could follow another dynasty, the Los Angeles Lakers, into a state of unravel.
It was not all that long ago that the purple and gold were in the Finals year after year with their combination of Shaq and Kobe and then their dominance under #24 and his cast of characters. With the injury issues of the future Hall of Famer Bryant, and the fact that the Lakers team of today is not much more than a group of no-name, D. league players fumbling the ball out of bounds on every other play, Lakerland has become more akin to a horror show, and a return to prominence appears to be a distant fantasy. Will the Heat follow suit? Can Wade and Pat Riley convince King James and Bosh that the city of Miami is the present and the future? We shall see…