By JAIME C. HARRIS
Special to the AmNews
On Monday, the Miami Heat deservedly celebrated their second straight NBA title with a parade attended by an estimated 400,000 revelers, who blanketed the city’s downtown streets.
The Heat’s 4-3 series win over the San Antonio Spurs was both validation and vindication for their unparalleled leader, LeBron James. While he remains a polarizing figure and one of the most scrutinized athletes of modern times, James’ decision, which famously became known as “The Decision,” to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat in the summer of 2010 has yielded him three straight Finals appearances, two Finals MVP awards and two regular season MVP trophies.
Although James won’t admit it, his pride suppressing any desire to reveal emotional vulnerability, perhaps most significantly, he is no longer universally perceived as a villain. While there is still a plethora of James haters, there are also countless fans, many of them new converts who adore the 28-year-old sensation and exult in his basketball brilliance.
“It’s the ultimate,” James said, speaking with the Heat’s broadcast partner, Sun Sports. “This is [why] I came down here, to be able to have a parade at the end of the year. I’m extremely blessed. It doesn’t get any better than this.” Though it may not for Heat over the next few years.
Looking forward, they will likely find their road back to the Finals paved with perilous obstacles, most ominously in the form of the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. The argument that the Heat will unequivocally be the best team in the Eastern Conference entering the 2013-14 campaign can only logically be based on James’ greatness. Their ceiling for improvement is clearly lower than that of the Pacers and Bulls. If the latter two have their full complement of players by the time the postseason begins next year, they should, at the very least, be the Heat’s equivalent.
If Ray Allen, James Jones and Rashard Lewis exercise player options as expected, the Heat will have $85.6 million committed to their payroll.That leaves no flexibility to address their rebounding deficiencies, as they were the worst in the league on the glass. The Heat’s best option to upgrade would be to amnesty Mike Miller, who has two years and $12.8 million remaining on his deal.