Growth is normally transparent. You don’t actually see it, or realize it’s happening, until afterwards, until it’s too late.
Sometimes you do all you can to stop something, but it doesn’t matter. Time never stops. It won’t wait. You mature just because you’re alive, just from living and breathing and experiencing. At 18, you’re on top of the world. But at 22, you’ll realize that world was just a tiny piece of the universe, the smallest peak on the largest mountaintop any of us has ever seen.
No one really wanted to see this day. But deep down, everyone knew it was coming. You could feel it. There was no stopping it. The roots of the summer are now bearing fruit at the perfect time. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together to change history. The dawning of a new era. Subjecting themselves to lesser talent? Killing themselves year after year to survive in the playoffs? Being the single face of a franchise? Not anymore. It ended in the creation of a super team, a squad that went from scary to laughable to underdog to believable. It’s looking unbeatable now.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote last week:
Everyone else feared this is how it would play with James and Wade together. Privately, the Celtics prayed they would have one more season until these two stars learned to play without the ball, learned to defend every trip, learned to give of themselves for the greater good of championship basketball.
“That is the vision I had during the free-agent period when I decided to come here,” James said. “It’s all coming together at the right time.”
This has been jarring for the Celtics. The Heat are beating them in the way the Celtics used to beat everyone else: smart, efficient offense in the fourth quarter, with the ball in the hands of their best players; and suffocating, unrelenting defense that takes away an opponent’s best players. The Heat’s will is unmistakable and their belief is brimming. They’re younger, stronger, and they smelled blood in the shimmering green waters on Biscayne Bay.
When asked last week about how nervous Celtic Nation was over this series, Chuck McKenney of RedsArmy.com said everyone was “scared s#$%.”
“We won’t know if Wade and Bron ‘get it’ until they face adversity on Boston’s home court,” said McKenney in an email before Games 3 & 4. The test was passed. Trailing virtually all game long to a team bent on one last run together, knowing a 3-1 deficit would be nearly impossible to make up against the explosive Heat, Boston couldn’t kill Miami on Sunday. LeBron took the heat all year. Fittingly, he hit the biggest shots, buckets that did more than silence a legion of basketball purists. They signaled growth. We knew Bron could hit those shots. We had seen it before. But now he and Wade had his teammates believing, and just as importantly, he had Boston believing that the door is shutting. Things look different.
20 years ago, a group of kids discovered something they didn’t know they had. They overcame the bullies, realized it was in them all along. They just hadn’t found it yet. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest of the Chicago Bulls came of age, and once they did that, it was a wrap for the Detroit Pistons, a wrap for the Jordan Rules. They had run their course. Time waits for no one. Once we started down that trail, there was no turning back.
No one believed in MJ, said he couldn’t win. He was a young guy then, and had lost more than he had won during the playoffs. Did he have it in him all along? Probably. But it wasn’t until everyone started believing that it all changed.
We haven’t seen a wing duo as dominate as Jordan and Pippen since. Until now. For all of their offensive talents, it’s Miami’s defense that is taking the Heat to a new level. Funny, all of this growth is being done at the expense of what was the game’s greatest defense. In Games 1 & 2, and during crunch time in Game 4, Boston was lost offensively, their rhythm destroyed. The Heat don’t just stop a team. They feast on them, every mistaking turning into a virtually guaranteed basket.
Boston is staring down the inevitable, facing down the course of history and tonight will give it a desperate slap to the face.
“Over the next five-six years, the team you are seeing right now will be the worst playoff team that Miami will bring to the table,” said David Dwork of the popular Heat blog, Peninsula Is Mightier, in an email. “They are just gonna keep getting better.”
This isn’t so much about the end of one run. It’s more about the beginning of another, the start of a new regime. If Miami wins, they will probably see Chicago and the league’s MVP, a team that beat them every time they played this season. It could end there, or it could end in the Finals. It could even all end against the Celtics. But the belief is beginning to mount.
Do you need to love it? No. Do you need to respect it? Yes. Tonight, LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh will be out on South Beach, energized and ready to take their largest step yet towards rectifying all they’ve done. This’ll be about overcoming the one bully they knew they had to, beating back the Celtics, the team that ironically was both their blueprint and their opposite. Boston is wilting. It’s the last round and they are barely holding on. Do the Heat have one final kill shot in them? They’re gaining strength. You might not always see it, but you can feel it.
Forget last summer. Tonight feels like the real beginning.
Who’s winning tonight?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.