July 9, 2012
As a Miami resident and avid Heat fan, I (of course) could not miss the two hours of interviews of the three kings, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James, by Oprah Winfrey. That the great Oprah came to interview them in their house is a testament to how big of a deal sports are, how big the NBA has become, and most of all, how big of a deal the kingdom is.
Living here, I’ve had the opportunity to see them interviewed regularly, and to get a feel from them not only as players and celebrities, but as men. Along the way, I’ve been struck at how thoughtful they seem to be in comparison to other professional athletes, if not the public at large. Oprah, in what was my favorite moment of the interview, seemed equally blown over by them as she said, in kind of a flabbergasted reply to a particularly introspective comment, “Man, y’all some talking NBA players.” In the context of the conversation what she was saying essentially was that they are interesting and interested. It was quite a compliment, particularly considering the source.
With the benefit of hindsight, the path of the Heat has been truly storybook. Had they won in 2011, it would have been seen like a school bully that picked the best players for his team, leaving the rest for the opponents. Instead, they were shown as human, the NBA was proven to be not so easy to dominate, and the challenges of stacking stars on one team were shown to be greater than one might guess, and thus more impressive to overcome.
To come from behind in every series made the victory ever more impressive. One would be hard pressed to say, as they did in 2011, that they lacked resolve and mental toughness. This one feat would indicate the exact opposite of that. If memory serves me correctly, a commentator noted that it had never happened before. Impressive.
Wade, it seems, played through fairly signficant pain, so much so that he had knee surgery after the season was over, killing his dream of again playing in the Olympics. Yet, until it was over, we never heard of this. While fans and commentators discussed how his game was not what it used to be, he kept cool, looking for opportunities for his teammates, for his team, and waiting for the times when breaks in the defense or his own physical pain that would allow him to contribute more. He never complained, and made no excuses, but merely explained it after it was over. Very cool. Like John Wayne would have done it.
Then there is Bosh. Commentators and fans were often quick to set him aside as a less necessary third wheel. I always found this frustrating as I believed all along that his presence adds alot to their competitiveness, with much of this lost in the statistics. His injury against Indiana, which clearly made the following games without him more of a challenge, made everyone appreciate his contribution to the team. Without Bosh, would they have beat Oklahoma City? Maybe they would have, but not in five, no way. Bosh is a great guy, such great glue; it is awesome to see that his contribution to the big win was fully appreciated in the end.
Finally, there is Lebron, an Avenger in human form. It can’t be easy to be so physically gifted, so admired, and so catered to, yet keep your head on straight, but he seems to do it fairly well. I suspect it is as he stated, that losing in 2011 made him a better champion. Whatever it is, he did it well this time. To save a triple double performance for the final game vanquished the “can’t close” comments. To then celebrate this victory with such humility is truly impressive.
With the benefit of hindsight, Dan Gilbert’s letter, seeminlgy praised by most Clevelanders at the time, and the product of a seemingly educated and, at least now, privileged man, appears awkward as compared to the thoughful retort of his high school educated former employee. It makes one wonder how many of his teamates at the time were “don’t blame you man” envious.