Three years ago, when the Heat first came to the of the Bahamas, excitement was palpable every where we go. The collective buzz through the air was – “the champs are coming! A lot has changed since then.
In training camp 2013, “The shot” had just happened two months prior when Chris Bosh got the most important rebound of his life and Ray Allen followed with the most important three of his life. Lebron secured the bag (word to DJ Khaled) in game 7 and won his second ring, the franchise’s third ring. The “Big 3” were at their peak, becoming one of the few teams in NBA history to win back to back titles. There were hopes of them going for the more rare 3-peat, but the Spurs got their revenge the following summer. Following that loss, Lebron went back home to Cleveland, Ohio. Fast forward to the summer of 2016, and like his banana boat buddy (II), Wade too went back to his roots, and is now with the Chicago Bulls. In the two years the Heat have tried to manage without Lebron, Bosh has suffered from bloodclots around All Star Break, that has ended his season and put his career in jeopardy. Pat Riley put the nail in the coffin of Chris’ Heat career on media day.
So the Bahamas had an opportunity to witness the peak of the Big 3 and now we witnessed the version of the team that signalled the official end.
I was employed at ZSR Sports Radio 103.5 when the Heat first came to the Bahamas – my first real media job. I remember standing in the rain at Oydessey airport for the team to arrive, and no one knew the exact time they were supposed to come in. (Why can we never be on time?) It started to rain, but nobody was prepared to go home. Once they finally arrived, people were hurdling luggage, equipment and loved ones to get the right shot. That would be the last time I saw the Heat, because at the time, my employer (who still owes me money by the way) was unable to secure credentials for the camp. Thats how insane the 2013 camp was. All I was able to do was ride in the bus with the high school players attending the Alonzo Mourning camp. That’s it. Didn’t get inside there either.
This year was different. With 10YS, I had credentials to fully cover the event, and I’m probably one of three people in the Bahamas that knows the Miami Heat roster fully without having to Google. I’ve been a bonafide Heat fan since 2002, since the days of Caron Butler. Even with that heat resume, even I couldn’t find the push to watch the team arrive. Everything was different, even down to them arriving on time. Other than a few photographers and a Junkanoo group, the airport was empty.
Comparing the rosters from now to then, it’s a world of difference. Ray Allen is semi retired and working in a food truck in Miami. Shane Battier is a college basketball analyst. Mario Chalmers is nursing a torn achilles somewhere in Memphis and Norris Cole is currently searching for a new NBA team. One of them (or both) may join Lebron in Cleveland, like James Jones and Chris “Birdman” Anderson already have. Rashard Lewis and Toney Douglas are out of the league, and Mike Beasley just got traded from the Rockets to the Bucks. All of the aforementioned names ring a bell to at least most of the casual NBA fans because that team had so much attention because of the Big 3. Their popularity had a trickle down effect. The 2016-2017 version of the Miami Heat will feature significant contributions from Tyler Johnson aka Pusha T, Josh Richardon, Dion Waiters, Josh McRoberts (who is known for being hurt and the white guy that easily fits into any group of black guys), Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams and Dion Waiters. When the Miami Heat were here in 2013, Hassan Whiteside wasn’t even in the NBA. He was in transit between the China Basketball League and the Lebanese Basketball League. Now he has a 98 million dollar contract and is the starting center for the Miami Heat and cornerstone of the franchise.
One of the most fascinating things about this year’s Heat, is the fact that Pat Riley is finally embracing a youth movement. Since he drafted Wade in 2003, Riley has operated the team as legitimate championship contenders. Miami either never played their rookies or drafted poorly. In 2005 they drafted Wayne Simien instead of David Lee or Monta Ellis and drafted Jason Smith in 2006, who they traded for Daequan Cook (2009 All Star Weekend 3-Point Shootout winner) instead of Aaron Affalo or Wilson Chandler. In 2008, the Heat had the worst record in franchise history (only 15 wins) and drafted Beasley. He had so much promise, but ultimately he could not stay off the WEEDUH and has bounced around for most of his NBA career. Now the fate of the franchise rests on the shoulders of Justise Winslow, former NCAA champion.
Udonis Haslem is now the captain of the Miami Heat, and the oldest player at 36 years old. He was born and raised in Miami, and was with the team for all 3 of their championship rings. Beno Udrih, who won a ring with the San Antonio Spurs is 34 and the new lead guard for the Heat, Goran Dragic, is 30. Other than that, the Heat’s main contributors are in their 20s. The team’s highest paid player (Bosh is no longer in the equation) is Whiteside and he’s 27 years old. The team’s new franchise player Winslow is only 20.
When the history of the last decade of the Miami Heat is told, the Bahamas will be prominent in the story. In 2013, the Bahamas saw the last peak of the Heatles era, while they were confidently preparing to chase a 3-peat. In 2016, the Bahamas saw the official end of the Heatle era, with Udonis Haslem being the last remaining member (along with Coach Spo) from that team. This year is also the first time the Heat will whole heartedly embrace a youth movement. When they hopefully come again at 2018, the Heat may boast a new superstar. With Chris Bosh’s money coming off the heat’s cap in February, the Heat are able to chase free agents in the summer of 2017 and 2018. If not, they should tank and draft the hometown hero, Deandre Ayton.