Eight wins. That’s what separates the Miami Heat from NBA lore.
When LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh came together in the summer of 2010 they had in mind winning more than one championship. To put it in James’ words, “Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.” That was the expectation the Heat came in with after the “Big Three” first formed.
Four years later, Miami is in position to win its third consecutive title. So, if the Heat wins it all again this year, exactly where do they rank among all-time great dynasties?
For our purposes, let’s assume the Heat complete the three-peat, which at least gains them entry into the conversation. With three titles, that puts them in the same playing field as Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker’s Spurs and Larry Bird’s great Celtics teams. Those teams won three titles each.
However, for the Heat to enter the upper echelon of dynasties would mean equating them with teams that revolutionized the game. Bill Russell’s Celtics, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Lakers and Michael Jordan’s Bulls all fall under this elite category. The Minneapolis Lakers of the early 1950s led by George Mikan also deserves a spot in this class.
Consider that these teams all won at least four titles, played against formidable competition and dominated the game.
Jordan three-peated twice and if he hadn’t decided to take a two-year break from the game, the Bulls would most likely have won eight straight titles.
Not only did Chicago win each time they reached the Finals, none of the series were pushed to a game seven. LeBron and Co. lost in their first appearance and if it wasn’t for an incredibly clutch three-point shot from
Ray Allen, last year’s Finals wouldn’t even have gone to a deciding game seven.
Then there’s the topic of who Miami has faced in the championship round. In 2012, the Heat played against a young and inexperienced Oklahoma City squad that was not ready to take the crown just yet.
Last year, a game seven proved to be too much for an aging Spurs team. Going against Kevin Durant before this year or Duncan past his prime does not cut it when talking about all-time great dynasties.
On the other hand, the Showtime Lakers had to go through the legendary Celtics teams led by Bird. Those games pitted two opponents who had the same caliber of talent and saved the NBA from going extinct. The
Johnson-Bird rivalry increased interest of the NBA and brought a new generation of fans to the game.
Russell had his own rival in Wilt Chamberlain and Jordan went toe-to-toe with the two-headed monster of Karl Malone and John Stockton twice. James is the best player in the league, but there is no equivalent for him to prove his mettle.
The Heat are also not on par with the dominance achieved with teams that came before. Minneapolis, the league’s first dynasty, won five championships in six years. Boston failed to win a title just once during the 1960s. That ladies and gentlemen, is dominance. The Heat are good, but not that good.
And if you had to pick one coach to draw up the last play with the game on the line, would you have Erik Spoelstra design the play, or hand things over to Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson? The championship rings on those coach’s fingers can answer that question. Auerbach won nine times and Jackson ran out of fingers to show off his rings.
If the Heat win it this year they deserve to be ranked higher than other mini-dynasties such as the Houston Rockets of the mid 1990s or the Detroit Pistons of the Bad Boy era. Their name probably is on the same plateau as Bird’s Celtics and Kobe and Shaq’s L.A. teams. However, to enter legendary status and be considered the greatest, Miami will have to win, “not three, not four, not six, not seven.” Only time will tell if that happens.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of May 21, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Art by Emily Zhang of the Daily Nexus.