If there was one thing that almost everyone, basketball fan or not, agreed on going into the playoffs it was that the Miami Heat embodied a certain sort of modern sports evil. They consolidated a seemingly unfair amount of talent in an unbalanced and cynical way with the clear goal of just winning as much as possible, which isn't really a very classy or interesting way to go about things. Maybe worst of all they made LeBron James betray his downtrodden home state of Ohio in favor of the glitz of South Beach.
It was with a certain unexpected glee that I watched the Heat blow the Finals last year. No matter how many finals this Heat lineup go on to win, there will always be the asterisk that they didn't win it the first year when everyone expected them to. Going into this year I rooted against them from the moment I tuned in to the playoffs. The Finals match-up this year, with the Miami Deathstar pitted against the young, unconventional upstarts of the Oklahoma City Thunder seemed like a classic good vs. evil match-up. I don't think I have ever associated a positive or negative emotion with the city of Oklahoma City before this series, but I found myself honestly caring. I wanted them to fuck up Miami's legacy even more. Maybe even for good if their contracts started to fall apart.
Of course, it didn't work out that way. Miami took control in the 4th quarter for three consecutive games and pretty much blew the Thunder out last night. I hated seeing them celebrating on the sidelines. But then I had Grinch-like change of heart. The second the game was over, LeBron went immediately over to the Thunder's best player, Kevin Durant, and gave him an absolutely epic grizzly bear man-hug for what seemed like forever. LeBron could've elected to take this entirely earned opportunity to shove all of the criticism and expectation and petty hatred directed his way for years back down the media and the general public's throat. He could've used the moment as an opportunity for some well-deserved self-aggrandizement and time alone in the spotlight as the best basketball player in the world. But instead, knowing every camera in the arena and literally hundreds of millions of eyeballs worldwide would be on him, he went over to his freshly defeated foe and embraced him in an unmistakable gesture of goodwill and camaraderie. Millions of impressionable kids watched their hero bypass gloating and celebrating for an honest, heart-felt recognition of what it means to compete and succeed. If world leaders could be even a fraction as classy and humble as this son of a single mother from a down and out section of Akron, Ohio then there would be world peace. If everyone who talked shit about LeBron on the internet worked towards their goals with as much discipline and conviction as LeBron has over his lifetime then we'd all be piloting zero-carbon flying cars around a futuristic, harmonious utopia right now. The point is: enjoy it LeBron. You deserve it. Sorry for being a hater.