Last season Miami couldn’t lose. The Heat won 27 straight.
You didn’t buy a ticket to watch your team win because your team wasn’t going to win. You bought a ticket to watch LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. You bought a ticket because you wanted to see how spectacular basketball, played correctly by the right people, could be.
This season you buy a ticket because LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Heat have turned human. Going into Friday night’s game at Philadelphia, the Heat had lost three straight.
James, Wade and Bosh lost to sub-.500 teams. They lost to the New York Knicks by 10, the Brooklyn Nets by 9 and the Washington Wizards by 17. They trailed the Wizards by 34. And they had Washington where they wanted them, in Washington, where the Wizards were 7-9.
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The Charlotte Bobcats get the Heat where they want it on Saturday night, at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The NBA season is long and can be monotonous. Orlando again? Nobody says, Miami again. The Heat brings glamour. It has won two straight championships. If it continues to win, we’ll remember the Heat the way we remember Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers, Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
While it’s true the Heat hadn’t lost three straight since January 2012, its players understand. They’ll rest occasionally – they did against the Wizards – and recover and rise when the playoffs begin.
Another reason to buy a ticket: The Heat won’t return to Charlotte until next season, and when it does, it might no longer feature the same stars. And even if it does, Wade and Bosh will at some point cease to be as effective.
LeBron, Wade and Bosh have the option of voiding their contracts after the season. Each took less than the maximum in 2010 so they could fit into the salary cap and onto Miami’s roster.
Lebron is worth more than the max. Bosh, a fine complementary player, is not. Wade turned 32 Friday. Although he’s suffered a series of wear and tear injuries, look at his numbers this season: 19.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds. And he’s shooting 54 percent from the field. Bosh is shooting 52.2 percent.
The only Bobcats making more than half their field goal attempts are Bismack Biyombo, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jeff Adrien. There’s a motto for players near the end of the bench: Hit more than half or don’t play.
Play with LeBron and you’re not going to attract the double teams. And if you work to get open, LeBron will find you. He averages 6.5 assists. As adept as he is at scoring inside and out, his passing distinguishes him. He’s made the art – and passing is an art no matter what Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks tells you – cool again.
When the best player in basketball is among the most selfless players in basketball, selflessness becomes contagious and you probably ought to win.
Miami has beaten Charlotte 14 straight times, 13 of them since the 2010-11 arrival of LeBron, Wade and Bosh.
I pull for underdogs. Some of us like the status quo, and some of us like to see it toppled. So when the Jacksonville Jaguars, Milwaukee Bucks or Buster Douglas win, I smile.
But I also appreciate excellence. I like it when royalty comes to town, when Peyton Manning comes to Bank of America Stadium and Jordan and Magic and Bird played at Charlotte Coliseum.
Even though Indiana has the best record in the Eastern Conference and San Antonio, Portland and Oklahoma City are playing the best basketball in the much more competitive West, Miami is royalty.
Look at LeBron’s numbers: He averages 25.9 points and 6.7 rebounds and shoots 58.7 percent from the field. Only 7-foot guys who are not allowed to leave the lane shoot 58.7 percent.
Miami last came to Charlotte in mid-November, and when the team bus pulled up to the hotel door there were as many security men in the lobby as there were players. It was as if a stage had been erected, and as LeBron and Wade and Bosh and the fellows sashayed down the runway, cell phones snapped pictures and fans pointed and yelled.
We don’t get basketball royalty much.
Who knows when it will come our way again?