By Alex Wong / @steven_lebron
On Monday, the Heat took their 22-game win streak into Boston, on the second half of a road back-to-back, against a Celtics team that for several years running has always given Miami the toughest competition in the regular season and playoffs.
And so, if it’s possible for there to be writing on the wall for a team that hadn’t lost since the start of February, it seemed that way as they were down double digits in the fourth quarter, and Jeff Green was on his way to a career night.
In the last two years, this sort of predicament would have everyone rushing to their preconceived notions about the flaws of this Miami team, the failures of LeBron. It was a one-way narrative that The Decision gave birth to, and when the Heat fell short in the Finals to the Mavericks, it drove that particular storyline into overdrive.
Of course, a year after finally winning the championship and making amends in the eyes of the public, there’s a different story with Miami, with LeBron.
No longer do we wonder how LeBron and Dwyane Wade can co-exist (they can) or if the best player in the game is capable of making things happen like hitting shots in the final minutes (he can). As the regular season winds down and the playoff picture starts to crystallize, there are some great storylines to follow: the battle for seeding between Memphis-Denver-Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics’ late-season push for the Atlantic Division, the Spurs-Thunder fighting for the top seed in the West, the Lakers and so forth.
But really, all of these plot lines become secondary to what LeBron and the Heat are doing, and whether this team is about to render the rest of the season completely meaningless because it’s just a matter of going through the motions before they claim their second championship.
The win streak itself comes at a perfect time. Imagine if this had happened in LeBron’s first season in Miami after The Decision. The backlash and anger was so strong. And such a dominant stretch so soon after he had angered everyone would’ve been difficult to appreciate. I can imagine it now: the Heat are 23-1 to start the season, but we still harp on whether LeBron can do it in the post-season.
That’s the beauty about the timing of this streak. It comes at a time when everything about LeBron has already been answered. In some strange way, this is probably what Kobe meant when he described success after success.
The immediate success of a great player validates all the doubts that have accumulated throughout his career. But it’s the success after that first taste that truly separates someone who we celebrate in the moment, with someone that we celebrate for now and forever. This is the phase that LeBron is in now.
Take a step back, and even as he’s putting up numbers and dominating the game in ways that we always imagined he would, it’s now entirely possible that we’re entering a stretch where nothing else will really matter.
In a few years, if the Heat are still doing this and running over the league, we’ll complain again. We’ll yearn for parity. We’ll find a way to blame LeBron somehow.
But for now, for these next two weeks, for this season, I think we’re all just in awe and here to appreciate what LeBron is doing. They say that championship windows are often shorter than you think. But so is the window for appreciating players in totality and just marveling at what they do.
This is the window now for LeBron and for what Miami is doing.
Enjoy it while it lasts.