Following eight long seasons in Cleveland, LeBron James abruptly left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, opting to join his All-Star buddies, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in pursuit of his first NBA championship.
Although no one outside Miami was thrilled, LeBron’s decision made sense from his perspective. After giving Cleveland nearly a decade of MVP-caliber effort, LeBron failed to capture his elusive first championship. Cavalier management had plenty of time to build a respectable team around the two-time MVP, yet the best supporting cast they could muster was spearheaded by an ineffective Shaquille O’Neal and a painfully average Mo Williams – which is not exactly a recipe for success, to say the least.
But despite having put his arduous Cleveland years behind him after winning his first title last season for the Heat, the self-proclaimed “King” appears to be back in the exact same situation he was in Cleveland three years ago – stuck with the task of turning a poor all-around team into a contender all on his own.
Though seemingly unbeatable, the 2013 Miami Heat are essentially a rag-tag group of injury-hobbled veterans and budding youngsters propped up entirely by James’ MVP play. With co-star Wade playing at only 60-70% due to injury and Bosh now exposed as an overrated forward, the Heat have to rely solely on James to facilitate their offensive attack, and lead them on the defensive end.
Outside of the three-headed hydra that was brought in to win “not one, not two, not three” but a countless number of championships, the rest of the team was what it was originally intended to be: a cheap, invisible supporting cast. Aging veterans Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Rashard Lewis contribute little, if anything. Defensive wizard Shane Battier is well past his prime and a liability on the offensive end. Young guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are hit-and-miss: when they’re in the zone they can be as good as any guard combo in the NBA; when they’re not, they can be hard to watch.
There are too many similarities between the ’13 Heat and ’10 Cavs to ignore. Now that Wade’s prime is in his rearview, James is left to steer the team himself – once again. At least if James was going to be the villain for ditching his hometown team, he expected some help in return – a reasonable trade-off. Instead, he’s back in the same situation he was before he left Cleveland, and still remains the villain.
Many may object to the comparison by pointing out that this year’s Heat team is substantially better than the ’10 Cavs. That 27-game winning streak during the regular season is hard to argue with, after all.
The stats, on the other hand, don’t differentiate between the two. The regular season scoring margin of the ’10 Cavs was only one point/gm less than that of this year’s Heat. And if you recall the media’s portrayal of the 2010 playoffs, the Cavs, just like this year’s Heat, were painted as the hands-down favorites to win it all after finishing with the best regular-season record. The similarities are hard to miss.
It’s truly unfortunate that James, the hero of his hometown Cavaliers, left for Miami to become the biggest villain in sports. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t won a title in Cleveland; he was loved unconditionally for his effort and passion – and would have been for as long as he had stayed. It’s not as if he was far off from a title in Cleveland either: the Cavs were the best team in the NBA his last two seasons there; James just didn’t have the patience to hang on a little longer.
Well, LeBron, you’re back where you were three years ago. You have one title under your belt; let’s see if you can get another. This time, there’s no easy way out.