Miami’s Big Three Experiment: A Success and a Failure

In the summer of 2010, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade made basketball history by forming a super team in Miami. This super team was the first of its kind because all three players had agreed on their own accord to come to Miami as free agents. Here were three all-star players in the primes of their careers that had accepted less money than what was available to them on the open market in order to make this dream team a reality. It truly was a groundbreaking and historical moment in sports history. However, with that type of groundbreaking moment also comes an inordinate amount of pressure to win.

Before the ink had even dried on the three new contracts for James, Bosh, and Wade, the Miami Heat held a championship-style celebration for their newly formed team in what amounted to be the most elaborate pep rally ever assembled. It was during this event that James put the target squarely on his team by proclaiming “once the games start, it’s going to be easy.” To make matters worse, when asked about winning multiple championships in Miami, James infamously counted up to seven before stopping. Surely James must have been caught up in the moment, but the pressure to win was now at a previously unmatched level for any team in sports history. And this was before the Big Three had even played their first game together.

After a 58-win regular season and advancing to the 2011 NBA Finals in their first year together, it seemed as though everything was going according to plan for the Big Three in Miami. However, it was the Dallas Mavericks who served up the first helping of humble pie to the Big Three, defeating the Heat in six games on the NBA’s biggest stage. The Big Three then had to face the music, talking to the media for the first time with their collective tail between their legs. To their credit, the Big Three rebounded from their initial championship disappointment to reel off two straight NBA crowns, including a franchise record 66-win regular season in 2012-13. In those two championship seasons, James raised his level of play to new heights, capturing two consecutive league MVP’s and two consecutive NBA Finals MVP’s in the process.

Fast forwarding to this season, the Big Three of Miami was on the doorstep of history as they were on a mission to become only the sixth NBA team to have won three or more consecutive championships. However, to the untrained eye it seemed like Miami was uninspired throughout most of regular season, resting on its laurels in a weaker than usual Eastern Conference. But once the NBA post-season began, the Miami Heat’s Big Three got back to their dominating style of play during the Eastern Conference Playoffs, losing only three games in the first three rounds combined. By all accounts, the Big Three were now poised and ready for a serious run at history. After all, this was the entire reason James, Bosh, and Wade decided to join forces in the first place.

Enter the San Antonio Spurs, equipped with championship experience of their own. Having tasted the bitter pill of defeat last year in the Finals at the hands of the Heat, San Antonio was out for revenge this time around. They combated Miami’s star power with depth and versatility at every position. In addition, San Antonio’s sharp defensive rotations, crisp ball movement, dead eye shooting, and flawless execution all added up to a complete demolition of the Miami Heat. The Spurs’ average margin of victory in this year’s five game Finals series was a whopping 18 points. Meanwhile, the one game Miami won was by two points.

All told, this latest setback for the Big Three of Miami won’t be end for this trio of superstars, assuming they all decide to stay together. Going into the 2014-15 season, this current Heat squad is still the best team in the East by a long shot. However, the results have been a mixed bag of highs and lows for the Miami Heat during this four-year run with the Big Three. Under normal circumstances, four straight trips to the NBA Finals including back-to-back championships would be considered a huge accomplishment. But considering the amount of hype that the Heat’s Big Three hoisted up onto their own shoulders by forming this unique coalition and boasting about it before a single game was even played, falling short in the championship round on more than one occasion just isn’t good enough in my opinion.