Greg Cote

Heat beats odds, gets No. 1 pick and King Zion. Hey, it could happen! Here’s why | Opinion

Zion sums up season at Duke: ‘It was like a movie’

Duke star Zion Williamson summarized his first, and what might be his only, season at Duke.
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Duke star Zion Williamson summarized his first, and what might be his only, season at Duke.

Five short years ago today the Miami Heat was at the top of the basketball world. They were reigning NBA champions steaming toward a fourth straight Finals. Had the Big 3. Had LeBron James in his prime. Back then when the Heat was throwing a party, it was a championship parade along Biscayne Boulevard.

This is a how-the-mighty-have-fallen story.

The Heat is hosting another party Tuesday night, but it’s one it would rather not.

It is a “Draft Lottery Party,” free to fans at the bayside arena. In the team’s first public event of the post-Dwyane Wade era (four words that still jar the senses a bit), Miami is doing its best to put a positive spin, a party hat, on the fact it wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs and so joins the league’s have-nots in praying for ping-pong balls to fall just right.

Golden State and Milwaukee angle for a championship meeting unless Portland and Toronto can fashion upsets in the conference finals. That’s at the top of the league. At the bottom, in the lottery, the Heat is hoping for what would be a bigger miracle than Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beating Game 7 shot Sunday that bounced four times on the rim and once off the backboard before falling in.

Miami is hoping its 1 percent chance of scoring the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft — that’s Duke’s Zion Williamson — somehow pays off. Likelihood of a top-three pick is put at 3.4%.

The Heat vaulting that high would astound not only for the sheer mathematical odds but because of Miami’s history of rotten lottery luck. In 31 franchise years this is only the Heat’s 11th time in the lottery, and Miami’s luck has been lousy. Not once has the team improved on its pre-lottery draft position. Four times it has stood pat, and six times it has drawn a worse position by a combined 10 spots. Twice Miami has held the No. 1 pick going in (1989 and 2008) only to lose ground in the lottery and draft fourth and second, respectively. Presently the Heat is set to draft a fittingly unlucky 13th.

Ah, but that miserable lottery history only means Miami is due some luck, right? Law of averages and all that?

I contacted the Basketball Gods on Miami’s behalf Monday, lobbying for that 1 percent to really turn Tuesday night into a party.

Me: “Y’all have slapped the Heat around in the lottery. They’re due!”

Basketball Gods: “Wait. You’re trying to suggest a franchise that has won three NBA titles since 2006 is due a break?”

Me: “Well, yeah, Lords of Hoop. I mean, LeBron left and the whaling since has been for naught. Plus you derail Alonzo Mourning with a kidney disease. You erase Chis Bosh with blood clots. You convince [Pat] Riley it’s a good idea to give $98 million to Hassan Whiteside. C’mon, that’s some dirty dealin’!”

Basketball Gods: “OK, let me think about it.”

So there is hope Miami will hit its 100-to-1 long shot and land King Zion of Durham. Or at least beat its approximate 33-1 odds, score a top-three pick and maybe land Murray State’s Ja Morant or Duke’s R.J. Barrett.

Dream big, Heatniks.

Consider: Long shots hitting are in vogue. It’s all the rage.

Tiger Woods was 100-to-1 against winning The Masters last month, but who got the green jacket?

Archie was 100-1 in the Royal Baby Name odds (no lie), but Archie it is!

Country House, a 65-1 dark horse, wound up winning this month’s Kentucky Derby.

Did Buster Douglas not beat unbeaten Mike Tyson?

Leicester City won the 2015-16 English Premier League soccer title at 5,000-1 odds.

The ‘69 Miracle Mets and Joe Namath’s guarantee happened just months apart.

For the love of Rulon Gardner, crazy [bleep] happens in sports, like

Miracle On Ice, anyone?

The 1993 Orlando Magic got the No. 1 pick with a 1.5 percent shot. The 2008 Bulls landed No. 1 from a 1.7 percent chance. The Cavaliers got dumbfoundingly lucky in both 2011 and ‘14. It happens.

The more I think about, I’m feeling good about the Heat hitting the Powerball at 1 percent. Think I had the Basketball Gods wavering there. I mean, what better career achievement award for Riley then Zion Williamson!

Should it actually happen, by the way ... you’re welcome.

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