Since the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat have become one of the most polarizing franchises in all of sports. In some quarters they are admired because of the star players they have and their back to back championships. On the other hand, they are reviled for their perceived arrogance and the suspicions of collusion between their star players. The acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, to join Dwyane Wade, and their subsequent celebrations before ever playing a game led many in the sports world to root against this collection of all-star players, almost immediately. The Heat attract a capacity crowd on nearly every road game and most of those supporters come to express their animosity. The vitriol has died down somewhat since their first season, but it still lingers.
While every NBA fan base harbors some resentment towards the Heat, there are some who genuinely hate the two-time champions. This article lists five fan bases who hate the Miami Heat the most. While most fan bases can trace their ill sentiments back to LeBron James’ infamous ‘Decision’, and the subsequent celebratory press conference, there is a fan base whose animosity has festered for nearly a decade. Most sports observers usually claim that the playoffs is what creates a rivalry and engenders dislike between players and fans. In the case of these five fan bases, four of their teams have faced the Heat in the playoffs and three of the teams have faced the Heat twice since the acquisition of James and Bosh.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
No surprise to find the Cleveland Cavaliers on the list of fan bases who hate the Miami Heat. Cleveland fans’ dislike of the Heat can be traced back to one day in July of 2010. On July 8th, 2010, LeBron James made his infamous ‘Decision.’ After playing seven seasons with the Cavaliers, James decided to take his talents to South Beach in free agency in the most bizarre of circumstances. In an ESPN produced television show, James publicly turned his back on Cleveland. The fallout from ‘The Decision’ was swift and vitriolic. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sent out some disparaging tweets and many fans burned James’ jersey in effigy.
So why are Cavalier fans only fifth on this list? Because Cavaliers fans’ reaction and subsequent hate of the Heat was centered on one individual, namely LeBron James. Cavaliers fans did not have a vitriolic reaction to other members of the Heat. Dan Gilbert has almost universally been criticized for his reaction to James’ free agent departure. In addition the Cavaliers have been pathetic since the departure of James and the two teams have not met in a single playoff series. Indeed, the Cavaliers have not been close to making the playoffs and at one point lost an NBA record 26 straight games. Some of the negativity regarding James has dissipated in the hopes that he would return to the Cavaliers after the 2014 season. This scenario seems unlikely as the Cavaliers appear to be one of the more dysfunctional franchises in the NBA.
4. Indiana Pacers
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat, the team quickly alienated most of the league when they had a celebratory press conference. They loudly proclaimed that they would win many championships without playing a single game. That press conference insured the Heat would be the most hated team in the league. The Indiana Pacers fan base are not unique in their dislike of the Heat. What separates them from most of the fans in the NBA is the fact that the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. This season has been a race for the top spot in the conference between these two teams. In addition to the race for home court advantage this season, the Pacers and the Heat have met in the playoffs in each of the last two years.
In the 2012 playoffs, the Heat eliminated the Pacers in six games in what was a physical series. Last year, the two franchises met in the Eastern Conference Finals in what was a thrilling seven game series. The fact that Championship hopes for Pacers fans have been dashed by Miami leads them to hate the Heat. This dislike has been festering for the past three seasons and is largely due to the rivalry between the two teams in the playoffs.
3. Boston Celtics
The team and fan base that took the Heats celebratory press conference as a personal insult were the Boston Celtics. At the time of ‘The Decision,’ the Celtics were the reigning Eastern Conference Champions and were only two years removed from winning an NBA title. The Celtics were the preeminent team in the Eastern Conference and they were suddenly relegated to old news and being overlooked. Like the fan base of the Pacers, the Celtics fans’ dislike of the Heat was increased due to playoff series between the Celtics and the Heat in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, the Heat eliminated the Celtics in five games but Celtics fans had a sense of injustice because they felt Heat guard Dwyane Wade intentionally broke Rajon Rondo‘s elbow. While the tussle between the two guards seemed accidental the result impacted Rondo’s effectiveness during the series which greatly irritated the Celtics fans.
The 2012 Eastern Conference Finals was what looked like the Celtics’ last chance at a championship for the team featuring Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The series was decided in seven games and was won by the Heat which did not endear them to Celtics fans. To make matters worse, Ray Allen, one of the members of the Celtics’ ‘Big Three’ defected and joined the Heat in free agency after the season. This further angered Celtics fans. The reason the Celtics do not feature higher on the list is due to the departure of some of their prominent players and the decline of the team over the past two seasons.
2. Chicago Bulls
One of the premier rivalries in the NBA is between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. These two teams just don’t like each other. Since LeBron James joined the Heat, their encounters have been noted for physical play and many technical fouls. It is obvious to all observers that the players involved do not like each other and this feeling extends to both fan bases. From the Bulls perspective, the feeling is that the Heat are a bunch of celebrities playing basketball, while they are a a hard working, tough team. While this narrative is a little simplistic, it has been drummed up each time the two teams play against each other.
Again, what really fuels the dislike of the Heat for Bulls fans is their encounters in the playoffs and a sense of injustice. In James’ first two seasons in Miami, the Heat dominated the headlines despite the Bulls owning the best regular season record in both seasons. To make matters worse for Bulls fans, their team had emerged as a legitimate title contender for the first time since the retirement of Michael Jordan, only to be eliminated by the Miami Heat in two of the last three playoffs. Another component of the dislike felt by Bulls fans is the fact that they missed out on signing James in free agency. Chicago was rumored to be one of the potential destinations for LeBron in 2010 but he spurned the Bulls in favor of Miami.
1. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks fan base is the one fan base that detests the Miami Heat the most. The choice of the Mavericks’ fans may seem like a surprising one, considering the two teams are in opposite conferences and have met only once in the playoffs since LeBron James moved to Miami. But what separates Mavericks fans is the fact that they hated the Miami Heat long before James moved to South Beach.The origin of their dislike for the Heat was the 2006 NBA finals. During those finals, the Heat defeated the Mavericks in six games in what was probably one of the most poorly officiated playoff series in NBA history.
Mavericks fans and their owner Mark Cuban harbor a sense of injustice regarding the result of those finals. Their primary complaint was the number of foul calls that the Heat received in the fourth quarter of those games. The primary recipient of those calls was Dwyane Wade. This brings us to another distinguishing factor of the dislike harbored by Mavericks fans. Mavericks fans actually hate Wade much more than LeBron James. Not only was he their tormentor in the 2006 finals, he publicly criticized their iconic player Dirk Nowitzki in the aftermath of those finals. Nowitzki and Wade do not usually shake hands during the NBA all-star game as a result. During the 2011 NBA finals, Wade made fun of the fact that Nowitzki had a flu in front of one of the cameras. This action not only incensed the Mavericks’ players but their fans as well. The fact that the Mavericks won their first and only NBA title by beating the Heat was especially gratifying for Nowitzki and their entire fan base.