Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

FreeDarko's Bethlehem Shoals, co-author of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (visit the FreeDarko store, too!) and our erstwhile Heat Strokes diarist, closes the book on Miami's season.

I don't really get writer's block, and maybe that's because I've never really been much of a writer to begin with. I just open up and type, to crib a phrase from the Stooges, and then cut out anything that doesn't make sense the second time through. It happens really fast, like cats having sex, and is usually about that pleasant for me. But it works, and it's why I was able to muster up something for (almost) every single Heat game for (pretty much) the first half of the season.


That's why, frankly, I'm amazed that it's taken me over five-and-a-half hours to come up with one final post in this ill-fated series. While I didn't feel up to following through on the second half of Heat Strokes, I did write on the playoffs almost every day for GQ. That involved a lot of Heat, especially toward the end. There was plenty to say, as LeBron revealed himself as the rightful MVP, Bosh made sense, and Wade, the most aggressive of the bunch, stayed the frightful constant. Even if Spoelstra's speeches failed to inspire television audiences (they leave out the parts that might be of scouting use, by the way), for once no one was talking about Riley like anything other than Pacino in Devil's Advocate, which is as it should be. And that defense ... the way people talked about it, you would think it was the basketball equivalent of the Ray Lewis Ravens. Which, in a way, it was.

Then the Heat had to go and screw everything up by making the Finals. Had they just put up a good fight in the next-to-last round, but then lost in respectable fashion, we would've been forced to grudgingly acknowledge their progress and perhaps concede that a title this year was a bit of a reach. Heat hate had become less tenable, with all the team had done to establish a rhythm and a passable reputation, mostly through its play. That team was pure basketball, and it would slip right through your fingers. Then came the Finals, which meant a chance to throw all that away. Because that's the way sports works.

This post isn't about defending or explaining LeBron's play. We all know that LeBron's series was at once riveting and mundane, inscrutable in the absolutely worst way possible. The conversation about LeBron, though, is pretty much a world unto itself, in the same way that the Mavericks were seemingly covered by a different press corps than James, Wade, and Bosh. They certainly seem to have experienced a very different historical event than the Heat. If it seemed like a dead-end, or ready-made fatigue, it's because its only referent was itself. One friend said, at some point, "This really makes me see how fascism happens." He later walked it back and insisted I just use "propaganda" here, but both rely on infinitely plastic messaging. The second the Heat again opened themselves up to criticism—which most likely, was the second they entered the Finals—the shitstorm was going to happen if it could.

Everything could be spun, and anyone gladly jump in on the party. LeBron James is a baffling, if great, basketball player; as a public figure, he acts a lot like the curdled child star he is; by all accounts, his narcissism clears even the official DSM standards. At the same time, we come to LeBron to see ourselves. He wanted us to be witnesses. Instead, he provides the perfect vehicle for whatever nondescript, or socially inappropriate, rancor we have balled up inside. His "narrative" is whatever twists and turns make it the most repulsive, a truly cooperative effort between fans, media, and Twitter. I have trouble writing about the Heat not because so much has been said, but because Heat discourse is a maze of self-serving, self-gratifying blather. There's a grain of truth to some of it, but just as frequently, the momentum is its own justification.


It doesn't take too rich a thinker to see the parallels with recent politics, and I'm not the first person to suggest that LeBron hire a DC public relations firm to deal with this climate. But what's most insidious about Heat Talk is how arbitrary it all is. No Finals, no grand stage and need for attention. No reality, no problem. We shouldn't clap too hard at the man brave enough to remind us that LeBron's career will go on. The Heat will be back, and look how loudly we applauded Dirk Nowitzki for overcoming those "soft" and "choker" labels that ... we saddled him with for the sake of conversation. Somehow, LeBron's entire career was reduced to the 2010 Celtics series and the 2011 NBA Finals. Those parameters made the last week possible, as much as anything idiotic or mystifying James himself did. We did it so we could talk. Times like these, I just wish sports would learn to shut up.

Bethlehem Shoals is a founding member of You can buy The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and lots of other stuff at the FreeDarko store.


Photo by Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News

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