Safe Now To Stop Hating The Heat?




CHICAGO — Twenty-seven seconds remained on the game clock and on the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak. At that point, finally, so deep into the Chicago Bulls’ surprising victory Wednesday, a chant went up lustily from many in the sellout crowd of 23,014. “End the streak! End the streak!”

Granted, the whole thing would have been edgier and more impressive had the Bulls’ fans done their chant 27 seconds before tipoff. The fans were neither cocky nor delusional enough to do it that way, though. But it was fun for them and fitting punctuation to another long night of booing whenever this team invades that house.

But then, that’s Chicago, the city LeBron James tormented back in his Cleveland days and snubbed when he had the chance to sign in July 2010. It’s the city that Dwyane Wade still considers home, where he still roots for the Bears, even as he wins a couple championships down in Florida. It’s one of the diehard markets of pro basketball, where passions for its team run much deeper than any general interest in the NBA overall.

Hate the Heat? Yeah, folks in the stands at United Center hate the Heat, same as those in Boston or Philadelphia. But then, they can work up lots of dislike for lots of teams, from the nondescript road shows from Phoenix or Toronto to the Boy Scouts of Oklahoma City.

Many of the league’s less-rabid precincts, however, seem to be softening a little on the Heat. Maybe it’s a matter of time – we’re 33 months removed from James’ fateful decision and the silly smoke-and-mirrors arena welcome, all puffed up with boasts and self-satisfaction. Maybe it’s the trials they’ve endured – sputtering from the start, a lost opportunity in the 2011 Finals vs. Dallas, an out-of-sight, out-of-mind lockout and finally, a little redemption.

Maybe it was the 27 victories in a row over 52 days and the sense that this wasn’t only about them, their rings, their bank accounts and their egos. They were elevating themselves before everyone’s eyes and giving back something to the game’s history with their pursuit of the 1971-72 Lakers’ record streak.

Maybe it’s the snapping of that streak, another sign of Miami’s mortality and, unintentionally, a hands-off approach to that all-time record.

Dwyane Wade (by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dwyane Wade (by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Maybe it’s the way they play, the perfection within all those X’s & O’s, the snapshot of an all-timer (James) at the peak of his powers and the pecking order that has developed in which a Shane Battier or a Norris Cole can be as important, in a moment, as any of the Big 3.

Or maybe it’s the lower profile overall after winning, in what at least can pass as humility, that finally has turned some of those frowns the Heat used to elicit upside-down.

Sorry to burst your toxic bubble, if you haven’t been paying attention.

But these Heat are not hated the way they used to be.

“The vitriol is dialed down,” Battier said Wednesday in Chicago, about nine hours before the streak got snapped. “In talking to guys who were here two years ago, it’s definitely dialed down. I wouldn’t say we’re loved. But I think people appreciate the style of basketball we’re playing and appreciate us more as basketball players instead of as just personalities.”

Those around the Miami team on an everyday basis can attest to the shift in responses it evokes. Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post has traveled throughout the NBA covering this iteration of Heat and has noticed the shift.

“Yes, dramatically,” Skolnick said. “When we went to other cities before, the hardcore cities – New York, Chicago, Boston – you expected [the team to get harsh receptions]. You didn’t expect in Atlanta and Memphis and Portland to hear the receptions this team would get.

“Now when we go to those cities, the boos turn to cheers at a certain point. There are enough Heat fans that it starts to drown out the negativity. And I think there’s an appreciation for the team that didn’t exist before.”

That suggests a couple of possibilities: Are Heat fans, old faithful or newly minted, crowding through the turnstiles to swing the audible sentiment? Or have fans of rival teams taken their feet off the Miami team’s throats?

In Cleveland last week – jilted Cleveland! – the noise at The Q mostly was boos every time James touched the ball. But when he hit a few clutch shots or threw down YouTube-worthy dunks, many cheered the athletic wonderfulness as if he still was one of theirs.

“Now Oklahoma City didn’t turn,” Skolnick said, “but a lot of the smaller markets have, we’ve noticed, like Milwaukee … We sort of say the ‘boos’ turn to ‘oohs.’ “

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, asked about the shift in fans’ attitudes, launched into a stump speech about his players’ willingness to sacrifice – salary, playing time, stats, whatever – and the possibility that folks might respect that. But no, that didn’t seem to quite fit. In fact, the farther Spoelstra went down that path, the greater the chance that people might renew some disdain for the Heat. As in: Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell us about it.

Finally, the question was put to him bluntly: Is your team hated less now?

“I think that already changed last year,” Spoelstra said. “But who knows? I hope basketball aficionados appreciate these guys for the way they compete on a night-in, night-out basis and for how unselfish they are.”

15 Comments

  1. Jack says:

    thats your choice Ortiz, hate them til you drop…long live HATERS!

  2. Ortiz says:

    Ummm… This is why I hate the Miami Heat.

    I don’t remember the last time I saw a group of superstars get together and make a show (and I mean LITERALLY make a show) about themselves and about how they are on the same team. They said they were going to win multiple championships, based solely on the fact that they are on the same team. They basically said, in other words, “we are on the same team, so we are winning titles. All of the hard work everyone else does wont mean a thing. It doesn’t matter how early you wake up in the morning, how much you travel, how much time you spend in the gym, how much time you practice, or how good your coach is. We’ll beat you all, just cause we joined the same team.”. They went on tv to say this. So, how are people not going to be mad? All this talk about ‘appreciating a good player when you see one’ or this ‘your just mad cause your team didn’t sign LeBron’ is irrelevant. They set this standard for themselves, and I hope they fail. Although, chances are the wont.

    That’s why I hate, and will always hate this version of the Miami Heat.

  3. Aaron says:

    They boo LeBron in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles and a bunch other places. Can you guys show some love?

  4. Harold flower says:

    Lol nah we still hate them

  5. Joy Legacy says:

    Chicago,New York, Cleveland- All teams that just hated Lebron for not joining their team not necesarily hating theheat. and now cleveland is getting a little nicer with the hopes of 2014 free agency

  6. THE_JORDAN_ERA says:

    @ HAROLD MANGUM, REAL FANS OF A SPORT APPRECIATE A TALENTED ATHLETE WHEN THEY SEE ONE. WHY DID SO MANY TEAMS AND CITIES TRY TO WIN HIM OVER? WHY HATE HIM WHEN YOU STUPID RACISTS PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO JOHN ROCKER IS. DID BRON KILL SOMEONE, DID BRON BEAT HIS WIFE, DID BRON DO ANYTHING BAD, THE ANSWER IS NO. ALL HE DID WAS WHAT WAS IN HIS RIGHT, WHICH WAS SIGN A CONTRACT TO PLAY FOR A DIFFERENT TEAM…SO TO ALL THE STUPID PEOPLE(NOT FANS OF BASKETBALL BUT RACISTS BALL) SO TO ALL THE STUPID PEOPLE OUT THERE WHY DID HE WIN 3 MVP’S, A GOLD MEDAL, AND THE LARRY OBRIAN TROPHY. YOU’RE ALL STUPID. GOD BLESS

  7. Matthew says:

    We are sure Miami will win many champions but we Love to Hate and we ar really sorry. Remember the old King James. so much has been said and done that people don’t Remember. Harold Mangum cares.

  8. LebronKingOfNba says:

    ^ i’m sure everyone cares about miami. whether like them or hate them. miami had been always the talk of the basketball world. even in other sports miami is being mentioned. just like in the last pga tour where woods and lebron were being compared. lol!

  9. Bstarr says:

    If you are good you will be hated by opponents and rivals. That is just a part of having success and they just need to deal with did. And until now Miami did a quite good job to achieve this. They do play good b-ball.

    What is bothering most people is the attitude of their so called fans. While the league has been softed down and the Heat are getting easy FT by officials they are not admitting the facts & not being objective. I understand they want to support their team but just be realistic!

    How many Heat fans were angry and disappointed with the officials last Wednesday night? Well the Heat were treaten the same way as their opponents. So now they know how that feels, s*cks doesn’t it? Now you know how the Celtics fans feeled when D Wade got away with his foul on Rondo in the playoffs last year that made it possible for the Heat to win the game. And this is just 1 example. Such things made other NBA fans booing harder against Miami, and it did not matter against who they are playing. OKC & Spurs are good teams but we don’t hear such noises when they are on the road…..

    But anyway, I want to congratulate the Heat and their fans with a very nice streak. And I hope that we all can have a nice and honest NBA playoffs + finals this year.

  10. Jack says:

    yeah sure,..WHO CARES even KOBE crushed his bone spur to that extent, WHO CARES they have D12 and yet they are at 8 spot,..all i care is watching basketball the way these Miami players doing,..great entertainment i see,..not like these olympic coach who do not have plays designed for their 2 big man,..boooom,…goodbye fakers!!

  11. Harold says:

    It was the all the showboating after plays in their first year together that was grating to me, but since they cut all that last year and just started playing ball, I have to admit that watching them has been a joy. They play great, great basketball.

  12. joar says:

    we do my friend! and of course you to. you feel for Miami coz if you don’t you wont acknowledge them as champions.

  13. Harold Mangum says:

    The hate hasn’t gone; Remember the old saying that fits King James to a T. Love me or Hate me but don’t be INDIFFERNCE to me. Well we ar sorry but so much has been said and done that people don’t really care anymore.

    We are sure Miami will win many champions, but who cares.

    • makar72 says:

      I do. And I live in New Jersey. I started liking them because everyone jumped on LeBron James’s case. I was not a fan until he decided to leave Cleveland. I hope he wins the next 6 in a row. He us a good guy, as good as the NBA has. People are full it.. add the sh if you will