The Heat is it now. It has taken over the town. It has become so big (the LeBron Effect) that it is a national team, the way the Yankees are, the way the Cowboys used to be, the way the Lakers wish they still were.
And now the Heat stands taller than ever, because, if basketball had its own version of a Perfect Season, how could this not have been it for Miami?
The club’s 25th anniversary year features a franchise-record 66 regular-season wins, a history-challenging 27 victories in a row, a thrilling playoff run led by an MVP superstar, all of it ending in a second consecutive championship.
Who’d buy such a too-perfect fairy tale as that!
At the center of it all is LeBron, the Heat’s hopes surrounding him and following him the way that entourage did in the concrete hallways in Friday’s wee hours.
“I want to be, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to ever play this game,” he said.
So few athletes in any sport can dare say such a thing and not sound equal parts preposterous and presumptuous. With LeBron, it almost goes without saying.
Storyteller Pat Riley can be verbose, but other times he gets right to it.
“LeBron is the greatest player in the world,” he said on this cigars-and-champagne night.
When LeBron is hitting his outside shots and even threes to augment his inside power game, as he was Thursday, he is all but an unstoppable force.
“Yeah, I am,” he had to agree.
(What is the point of false modesty, anyway?)
What gets you about LeBron is how he leads by example, not just excellence.
“It’s probably unique for a guy who’s been the best in the game since he was in seventh grade,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Usually, you wouldn’t have the type of work ethic that would match that type of talent.”
Championship nights like this one cast the memory back for players and make them remember where they came from, and who they were before TV cameras and strangers began to know them.
LeBron said it was very emotional for him, addressing the crowd on live TV during the postgame coronation, when he said, “I’m LeBron James. From Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here.”
Dwyane Wade sat on the floor outside the locker room a little past midnight Thursday, just thinking, savoring, trying to record it all in his mind. A crush of media surrounded him, but he was alone.
“We go through life so fast. The championships I’ve won seemed like they went past me so fast,” he said later. “I wanted to take a minute, take a moment and just soak in being a kid from Robbins, Ill., from Marquette, and now having three championships.”
What Wade was doing was simply appreciating all he has.
What a perfect weekend for Heat fans — for South Florida — to do the same.