VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – “Not one (championship), not two, not three,” a beaming LeBron James promised Miami fans at a raucous 2010 celebration held soon after he joined the Heat.
“More than that,” was left unsaid, but implied.
And then, after a brief pause, James resumed counting.
Everyone figured he was about to guarantee four or five titles, which seemed plausible considering LeBron would be joined contractually in South Beach by stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a long time.
But no, LBJ didn’t stop counting. He kept on going until he reached “not seven”.
As the American Airlines Arena assemblage roared its approval, James stopped at seven but didn’t END there — indicating even more than that lucky number of titles was in store.
However, after seeing the extremely tough time the Heat had in winning the finals versus aging San Antonio AND their Eastern Conference title series with Indiana’s no-name cast, MAS got the feeling James and Miami should be very happy, if not content, to have a “mere” two championships under their belt.
The Heat needed a Herculean effort from LBJ and his supporting cast to secure their second straight title.
Any more would be gravy, it says here.
Anything’s possible, of course, but MAS sees more than seven as highly improbable — for several reasons.
For starters, Miami’s roster construction leads one to question whether this team is built for a dynastic run.
Basically, the Heat have surrounded James with perimeter players to open up the court for LBJ’s fantastic forays to the hoop.
The plan being, if the defense collapses on the best player on the planet, he can just kick the ball out to any number of reliable 3-point shooters.
Mix in Wade’s all-around offense and the Heat’s scrappy team D and you’ve got the goods for a whole bunch of O’Brien trophies.
Or so Miami brass thinks.
MAS saw that same type of team-building fail, though, in the case of another “greatest player of his era” — Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain.
The Big Dipper was arguably the most dominant player in NBA history.
Wilt had the only 100-point game, tallied 50 points per contest one season (no one else has even reached 40 an outing) and averaged double figures in points and rebounds and nearly averaged double digits in assists another campaign.
The Philadelphia Warriors/76ers strategy was to similarly open up the floor so the nearly unstoppable Chamberlain could do his thing near the basket.
His Philly teams, as the Heat have done, loaded up with outside shooters to compliment Wilt’s inside presence.
Result: Chamberlain failed to win a single league crown during his first seven years in the NBA, beginning in 1959-60.
Granted, some great Boston Celtics TEAMS (Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, et al) had a lot to do with that — the Celts ruled Wilt’s first decade and beyond, winning an amazing 11 crowns in 13 years.
It wasn’t until the 76ers added a ferocious big man in power forward Lucious Jackson in 1967, to take some of the load off Chamberlain underneath, that the Sixers finally won Wilt a title.
Soon after, though, Chamberlain left for the height-challenged Los Angeles Lakers and experienced another title drought before notching championship No. 2.
Moral of the story: MAS — who, it should be noted, had a hoops career that peaked when he was a starting guard on his junior high team and then went rapidly downhill from there — feels Miami would be wise to add a big body to its supporting cast as well.
Centers Tim Duncan of San Antonio and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert gave Miami fits around the basket in their series.
Miami’s center Bosh — a slender 211 cm — is utilized more like a small forward.
Simply put, the Heat need meat.
Miami was smart to sign NBA body art king Chris Andersen late in the season. Birdman scored some key points inside when left alone and added needed toughness and shot blocking.
Andersen, though, is probably not the long-haul answer.
Thus, Miami must address its big man shortcomings for any dynasty to develop.
The second thing standing between Miami and more titles is age and injuries.
Wade is now 31 and coming off two seasons where he was often “iffy” physically.
How long can he continue to gut it out on bad knees as the primary compliment to James?
Meanwhile, the Heat’s top competition in the league — teams like Oklahoma City, Indiana and the Los Angeles Clippers are still quite young and on the ascent.
Lastly, Miami can’t always count on the ball bouncing its way as it did this postseason. Breaks have a way of evening themselves out.
You can’t tell MAS Miami (and the Spurs) didn’t dodge a bullet when Western Conference fave OKC lost catalyst Russell Westbrook to an injury early in the playoffs and was promptly eliminated.
Both clubs were thus spared a meeting with Westbrook and three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant.
And if surly San Antonio coach (that’s a story for another day) Gregg Popovich leaves 211-cm Tim Duncan on the court late in Game 6 to rebound a missed Miami shot, maybe Bosh doesn’t grab the ball instead and feed it out to Ray Allen for a last-second, game-tying 3-pointer, leading to a seventh contest.
But, then, to win a championship, you’ve gotta be both good AND lucky.
To their everlasting credit, the inspired Heat took full advantage of their breaks in notching King James’ second crown.
But MAS says: Hold off on any numerical talk for now, LeBron. Just savor No. 2 and be grateful for it.
As was the case with Wilt, there may never be a third.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org