Well ... it happened. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will all be wearing the same uniform next year. It's truly an amazing event, something unprecedented in the modern NBA. Since the advent of free agency, no group of top tier players, this early on in their primes, have been willing to combine on one team. You have to give them credit for being willing to sacrifice for the sake of a team. They will sacrifice touches, sacrifice stats, maybe even sacrifice pay, for the chance to be part of something legendary.
The Miami Heat now have a core 3 that is better than any team has had in a long, long time. Wade and James are sure to be Hall of Famers, and Bosh could get there too, and we're saying that about guys in their twenties. This isn't the Boston Big 3 all over again who, despite being fantastic and championship worthy, were already on the downside of their career. This is two of the top 5 players in the league teaming up, with a top 15 player coming along for the ride. As I type this, 28 teams are swearing under their breath, and wondering if they have a chance in hell of winning a championship in the next 5 years.
28 teams ... not 29. The 29th team is the reason this whole thing went down. If you want to know how it happened, if you want to know how an event transpired that seemingly violates all the laws we have about NBA basketball, you need look no further than the Los Angeles Lakers.
It's clear that James, Wade, and Bosh are serious about winning championships. That can no longer be disputed. Under normal circumstances, however, that alone would not be enough to drive this union of star power. Supposedly, these guys are all great friends, a friendship forged in the fires of international play with Team USA, but that's not enough either. In order for something like this to happen, there has to be a spark. There has to be a reason. The Lakers are that reason.
Because this new big 3 needed only to look at the stacked Lakers roster, behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (a couple of top 5ish players themselves) and know that the only way to ensure a good opportunity to compete for championships was to team up. The Lakers have won the past two championships, they have their core locked up for years, and in all likelihood, no one in that core will fall off anytime soon. With the Celtics likely to fall off, with the Magic never quite good enough, and with the Lakers keeping the Western Conference at arms length like a big brother tormenting a sibling, these three knew the only way to keep the Lakers from holding an iron grip on the Larry O'Brien trophy was to unite.
Will it work? In all likelihood, yes. There are plenty of reasons this unholy union might not work, especially right away. The Lakers are definitely still the favorites to three-peat as champions next season, because the Heat will be lucky to have 7th and 8th men which are better than most teams' 11th and 12th. Wade and James could struggle with who will be the Alpha male, as neither has spent a great deal of time playing off the ball in their careers. Lord knows all three of these guys have plenty of ego, none moreso than the King himself. With a team so top heavy, an injury to any of them will be difficult to manage. Without a good defensive big man, they will struggle to keep teams from working them inside. Maybe the old adage "Be careful going into business with your friends" will end up ringing true. Maybe ... if ... possibly. But, if we're honest, if they stay the course and allow the Heat a year or two to put some pieces in place around them, through the draft and the MLE, it's hard to imagine this team not winning at least one championship in the next 5 years. If they all still play in Miami in 5 years, it will probably be more than one.
That's why the other 28 teams are dreading the future right about now. Don't get me wrong, the Celtics won't be afraid of Miami next season, and Orlando isn't going to lie down either. Oklahoma City could make the jump this year or next. Unless Miami manages a further coup and convinces 3-4 decent veterans to sign for the minimum, they probably won't be ready next year. But those 28 teams also have the Lakers to consider; the big, bad, back-to-back defending champs every bit as formidable, and considerably more established, than the new NBA triad. The Lakers aren't going anywhere for a few years, and by the time they wrap things up, the Heat will likely be in full swing.
The Lakers are swearing under their breath, too. At the very least, the big 3 in Miami will likely cut a year or three off the end of their championship window. They know their path towards possibly becoming one of the legendary dynasties in NBA history just got a lot harder to travel. But the Lakers also know that they are the reason why this Heat team exists. The Lakers can take confidence from the fact that they are such an intimidating team, the NBA's best knows they couldn't be beaten without extraordinary measures. Those measures have now been taken. Some of the best players in the NBA have joined forces in the hopes of defeating the Lakers, and the NBA may be forever changed because of it.
The NBA Apocalypse has occurred, and it's our fault.
SB Nation has the Triad covered like Interpol.
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Check out the Miami Heat blog for jubilation.
Check out the Cleveland Cavs blog for devastation.