If you look at my profile on the Courtside Collective contributor’s page, you’ll notice that I claim my credentials as a Miami Heat fan based on the summer I spent there in 2001. Indeed, I have been to more Miami Heat games than any other NBA team, having been to two games during their championship season of 2005-2006 and three other games since then. I was delighted at the outcome of “the Decision”, I didn’t mind the hysteria of their arrival party. I was a solid member of the bandwagon last season and was delighted when they won the franchises second championship, the first for two-thirds of the big three.
But I’m done.
Unless I end up moving to Miami at some point in the near future, I will no longer be actively supporting the Miami Heat.
The reason for my jumping off a bandwagon that seems to be careering towards another shot at the NBA title is simple; I simply cannot tolerate glory hunters, front runners, or whatever you want to call them. People who support the best team simply because they are the best team are slowly killing sport across the world.
I should know: growing up as a proud Heart of Midlothian supporter, there is nothing more galling, in a strictly sporting sense of course, than the sight of a Celtic or Rangers jersey in Edinburgh. I am willing to accept that some people are simply the offspring of Rangers or Celtic fans. I will make sure my son is raised as a Hearts fan and it seems unlikely that he will ever live in Edinburgh. However, it simply cannot be dismissed that a lot of these people have chosen either Rangers or Celtic as their team because at the point in time when they became conscious about football, either Rangers or Celtic were winning.
If you look at English sides, the best supported club is Manchester United, although many overseas supporters have recently become Manchester City fans. I wonder why?
Look, I get it. It’s easy to support a team that always wins. The point is that being a true supporter is not supposed to be easy. You’re supposed to take the rough with the smooth, the highs with the lows. It’s not supposed to be “oh look, another championship. Great!”
The point is that being a glory hunter, being a front runner is a hollow, superficial existence as sports fan. It doesn’t really mean anything like as much to win when success eventually arrives at your door after years of failure and disappointment. OG Miami Heat fans will tell you. When the Heat arrived in Miami in 1988, they were not good. They did make the playoffs in 1992 and again in 1993 but it was not until 1997 that they won their division. When the team hit the jackpot with the 2003 drafting of Dwyane Wade and the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal the following season, the 2005 Championship meant all the more.
When Lebron James and Chris Bosh arrived in Miami two years ago, the likelihood of another title arriving in South Florida (again, not South Beach, the Heat play in Downtown Miami, not South Beach) increased exponentially. This of course brought about a significant “hate the Heat” movement, but there was a significant undertone to this campaign which was not immediately apparent to me until last Monday night.
Last Monday, the Miami Heat, coming off the back of a heavy defeat at Memphis, won a tight contest at Houston. The Heat started strongly, putting a double figure lead up in the first quarter, before the young guns of the Houston Rockets, led by the recently acquired James Harden and the awkward but hard working Turkish centre, Omer Asik, as well as impressive and horribly underpaid sophomore forward Chandler Parsons (although one would hope that he is suitably rewarded with a decent contract once his second-round pick rookie contract expires).
The Rockets, coached by Kelvin Sampson in the absence of Kevin McHale, blew this one. Jeremy Lin gave an utterly average performance, marked by turnovers and missed jump shots – notably a wide open three which would have put the Rockets into a two point lead with seconds remaining, but ended up a good foot short. Of course, Lin has been distinctly average against the fast-paced Heat defence in the past, but this was a worrying performance for Rockets fans who will be deeply conscious of the fact that this is the point guard upon which their franchise will depend for at least the next two seasons.
The Rockets offence descended into “give the ball to Harden and get out of the way” late on which rather betrayed a lack of ideas. Particularly baffling was Sampson’s decision to take Asik, traditionally a poor free throw shooter who had belied the stats with an 11-14 performance, out of the game late. Following Lin’s missed three, the Heat fouled Wade, another who has not always been clutch from the stripe, who proceeded to miss both only for Chris Bosh to claim the rebound. Bosh was quickly fouled and made both, leaving the Rockets down three with eight second remaining. Harden forced a three which missed and the game was over. Had Asik been in, undoubtedly he would have claimed his fifteenth rebound of the night and given the Rockets the option to go for a layup to win, rather than a three to tie.
Lebron James came up huge, with 38 points which included 5-8 from the arc. After that game Lebron was actually shooting 52% from three this season, which clearly will drop over the course of the season (it’s still at 44%), but if James is now a decent three point shooter, one has to ask: what else is there for him to do?
Here’s the problem.
The loudest cheer of the night, right up until Chandler Parsons hit back to back three’s in the fourth quarter to cap another career performance for the second year man out of Florida, was during player introductions and for the very first player introduced: Lebron James. Young fans, from Houston no less, were not wearing Jeremy Lin or James Harden jerseys; they were wearing Dwyane Wade and Lebron James jerseys.
The problem is that a new generation of fans is growing up as Miami Heat fans, even though they have NBA teams in their home towns. This is a significant problem for a large-market-but-average-performing side like the Houston Rockets. True, the western conference teams only play Miami at home once a season, but what is the evidence that these fans are coming back to see any other games?
Of course there will always be an element of “away” support at most NBA games. The nature of the United States economy means that people tend to move around for college, work, or life in general so they will of course attend the games in which their home town team is playing in their city of residence. What is hard to accept is that all of these fans were Miami natives.
If you have good cause to support Miami – and by that I don’t mean that you simply wanted to support the team with the best players in the league – then okay. If you just chose them for no good reason, I would encourage you to support another team. If nothing else, you’ll be the only dude at basketball training in a Bobcats jersey.