It was a damp, wet night in Glen Ellyn, Il on July 8th, 2010. I was playing a somewhat meaningless travel baseball game and my mind was elsewhere.
A week had past and the free agent frenzy of that summer had hit full gear. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were the most sought after free agents, so much so that teams were getting of rid of solid players to create cap space to sign not just one, but possibly all three. As a Bulls fan, all I had heard was that LeBron was going to the Bulls, a done deal almost. A few days later it became Bosh and Wade in a package deal to Chicago. Of course other teams were in the mix, New York and (then) New Jersey as well as Cleveland, but all the talk about “How great a fit it is for either player to play in Chicago” got me giddy and convinced at least one of them was coming.
When the night of July 8th rolled around, there were whispers that quite possibly that all three would join forces in Miami, take less money, and create a “Super team”. I ignored that for the most part, LeBron was the best player in the world before his prime and most likely wanted a max deal which would derail the entire notion of all three coming together.
As you can clearly see,
I was wrong.
The news somehow rumbled into our dugout, I don’t quite remember who told me, probably a good friend of mine by the name of Grant Greeno who was as engulfed with the situation as I was, uttered the words that all three were going ot Miami.
Was I shocked? not really. Disappointed? Only at the Bulls for not being able to secure at least one of those guys. But I didn’t really know what to feel at that moment. I couldn’t comprehend that three guys who were all Top-ten NBA players were going to be on the same team. Sure we saw this in Boston in ’07 with KG, Pierce and Allen, but those guys were nearing the end of the prime of their careers and realistically only had a few years to win. With Bosh, James and Wade, the Heat could be winning championships for the next 6 to 7 years.
But now on a rainy July 12th Saturday morning, reflecting back on the past four years, As a die-hard Bulls fan no less, I’m somehow in some weird way, thanking the Heat and the Big Three.
By all three joining forces, the media attention and three-ring circus that would follow this team through the first year and the 3 years after made it easy to extremely dislike (Hate is really pushing it, In my perspective I hate one team in sports and that’s the Bears) The Miami Heat, their fans and of course, the Big Three.
That’s why I’m thanking them now. All of a sudden, the NBA finally had ‘rivalries’ certainly not like the ones in the 80’s and 90’s, but everywhere Miami went was a big game. Boston and Miami in ’10 and ’11 were some of the best games to watch. The first big three in KG, Pierce and Allen vs. the new version. The past two years, behind Hibbert and George, Indiana and Miami became the premier games in the otherwise weak East.
Then there was Chicago and Miami, a whole other beast in itself. As a high schooler, when those games were on, no homework or studying was ever going to get done those nights, no matter how much I had to do, the Bulls and Heat came first (my priorities are more in line now.) The 2010-2011 Eastern Conference Finals were some of the best NBA games I’ve watched in my young life. Game 1 featured Taj Gibson dunking all over D-Wade en route to a convincing 103-82 victory which made me believe that hey, even with just one star in Derrick Rose, maybe we CAN beat these guys.
4 games later the Bulls were going home. Each game was a physical defensive battle that came down to one thing that made me
shake my head every time walking away from every game, the Bulls just didn’t have enough to beat the Heat. And for the next 3 years , that was the theme as a Bulls fan. The Bulls need more scoring, the Bulls need another star to compete with the Heat and so on were common sayings each season.
Rose being injured for the better half of three years didn’t do the Bulls any good either, but every time Miami came to town, even in the regular season, the game meant more. In almost a laughable sense, the Bulls were limping into each of those games. No Rose, sometimes no Deng or Noah or even both, but Thibs had them fighting every night, and even harder on the nights they played the Big Three. Sometimes the Bulls would get shellacked in every sense of the word, Miami was just too damn good for a Bulls team that could barely put 5 healthy bodies on the floor. But then there were games like the “Streak stopping game” in 2013 that made this series of adrenaline pumping games over the past 4 years so fun to watch. With no Rose, Noah, Rip or Marco Belinelli, the Bulls beat a Miami team who was playing the best of their basketball in all of the 4 years together. It showed that if and when Miami really wanted to, they could win 27 straight games. By no means was it a pretty game, but that’s how the Bulls always played the Heat, they did not like the Big three, they did not like Miami or their fans and it showed every time they played them.
So, much thanks to Miami and the Big Three. You made me cry when you toyed with my heart in 2011, making me think the Bulls were going to sweep you after game one, but you swept us. Thank you for being that team that I grew up hating. It’s like a right of passage as a NBA fan, you must grow up hating a team that is far superior than your own. Thanks for being my ‘Bad Boy Pistons’ even though you were, as Joakim Noah said, “Are Hollywood as Hell” you made the NBA more interesting, even if every story was about you. Speaking of Jo, thanks for bringing the very best out of him, without the Heat, Joakim Noah isn’t an All-Star, defensive player of the year and MVP candidate, you made him better because he absolutely hated losing to you.
But most of all, beyond the heartbreak of losing to you and the joy of defeating you, thank you for being something that we may never see again in the NBA. No team will construct a ‘Big Three’ that will captivate audiences quite like you did. 4 Finals in 4 years with 2 Championships is quite an accomplishment. You have your footnote in the History of the NBA, but on the behalf of every fan not a Miami Heat fan,
We’re glad that your era has finally concluded.