Dwyane Wade sat for questions first at the Heat’s annual media-day sessions Friday, the fruits of respect and seniority, and near the end a disembodied voice instructed reporters, “Last question.”
It was LeBron James kidding from beyond a closed door as he waited nearby to go on next. The two teammates and friends gave each other a brotherly shove as they passed, and then the best basketball player on the planet sat down and spoke into a microphone the only words I heard all day that sounded like a flat-out lie.
“As far as legacy,” James said, to a question, “I don’t think of that at this point.”
All who know him know better, of course. James’ knowledge and appreciation of NBA history and his place in it is what pushes and drives him now that that elusive first championship is out of the way.
The fascination in this coming Heat season is the sense that, for this team and for James, the greatness has only just begun. The sense that last season’s first championship of Miami’s Big 3 era has merely whet the collective appetite and not nearly satisfied it.
Coach Erik Spoelstra got into a silly little semantic debate with himself Friday, saying, “I’m not going to use the word ‘repeat.’ ” Instead, he said he preferred, simply, “We have a chance to win another title.”
Um, OK. I won’t use the word “repeat,” either. I’ll the use the word three-peat. I’ll use the word dynasty. I’ll convey out loud the hunger — the good greediness — that Spoelstra, James and everybody else with this club feel but are not free to convey.
‘GREAT SENSE OF LEGACY’
Champions are supposed to be humble, after all, at least outwardly. But this team knows what is at hand. The implications are there. The opportunity is here. One championship is nice, but one-and-done does not earn history’s attention. The Heat has a chance to create something special and knows it.
“LeBron has a great sense of legacy — his and his team’s,” Spoelstra said. “This team was built for something bigger than one championship. He understands the opportunity this organization has.”
In sports, the only thing bigger than championships are dynasties, legacies, history.
Out west, the Los Angeles Lakers have wrested the most attention this offseason by adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant and Pao Gasol.
Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant, losers to Miami in the Finals this past summer, remain a huge obstacle. And in the East nobody is discounting venerable Boston.
And yet there is a reason Miami is a 2-1 betting favorite to (sorry, Erik) repeat.
It is that the champions improved.
It is that the best got better.
The thought struck James on Friday as he looked around the team’s crowded dressing room.
He saw all of the players who helped him realize his dream.
Then he saw Ray Allen, the future Hall of Famer, the best three-point shooter of all time. And then he saw 6-10 power forward Rashard Lewis, the other major addition.
He saw Chris Bosh, healthy again. He saw Wade, getting there. He saw a deep roster that doesn’t stop with seven or eight rotation players but will find at least 10 quality players all fighting for minutes.