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Sports Then and Now

Heat Overcome Turbulent Season to Compete in NBA Finals 2

Posted on June 01, 2011 by Chris Kent

For all their struggles in meeting the national hype this season, the Miami Heat are right where they were expected to be. Playing in the NBA Finals as the Eastern Conference Champions. The Heat are gunning for their second championship in six seasons as they take to the court against the Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks as the finals open this week.

Yet it has been anything but easy for Miami in getting to the finals. While the story of last summer, “The Decision”, brought superstar LeBron James to the Heat to join forces with Dwyane Wade, that hasn’t resulted in an easy path to the top. Former Toronto Raptor star Chris Bosh, a talented 6-11 power forward, also joined Miami this year. James, Wade, and Bosh were looked upon as basketball’s version of the triplets, what Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith were to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s in the National Football League. Yet, at times, the Heat’s triplets were mere mortals.

Miami's LeBron James elevates for a jump shot over Corey Brewer of the Bulls during the Heat's game five win in Chicago on May 26 (Nathaniel S. Butler)

Despite being touted as the dominant favorite to make the NBA Finals and even win it, that threesome and Miami had more than one challenge, obstacle, and drought this season. After signing James and Bosh, the Heat’s season opened with huge expectations. However a season-opening 88-80 loss at Boston raised some questions. The Celtics were the defending conference champions and had won the 2008 NBA title. Many predicted that it would come down to Boston and Miami for the title in the east. With that on the minds of the players, fans, coaches, and media, the Heat were facing national scrutiny right from the very start of the season.

James led Miami with 31 points in the opening loss while Wade scored 13 with Bosh adding just eight points. The Heat never lead in the game and Boston showed why the experience of their key trio – Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett – made a difference.

The aftermath of that opening loss had the talking heads raising questions. Could Wade, James, and Bosh exist together and function? Was there enough points and plays to go around the three of them? What about the rest of the team? Every team, no matter how talented their top players are, needs supporting players to provide a cohesive nucleus. Forward Joel Anthony and guard Mike Bibby, the team’s other two starters in the opener against Boston, needed to mesh well with the trio. These were only some of the questions.

Additionally, there was the all-important issue of how the reserves would fit around Wade, James, and Bosh. Veteran centers Udonis Haslem and Zydrunas Ilgauskas each provided quality experience in the pivot. How would they adjust to the trio? Youngsters like Mario Chalmers and James Jones would have to find their niche as well. Read the rest of this entry →

Heat Knock Off Celtics to Reach Eastern Conference Finals 2

Posted on May 12, 2011 by Raj Prashad

Lebron James punctuated the series victory for the Heat over Paul Pierce and the Celtics.

For the last time in the 2011 NBA season, the Boston Celtics failed to close out a game they had in their grasps.

Lebron James and Dwayne Wade finally conquered their biggest test from the heavily stacked Eastern Conference Wednesday night in a 97-87 win over the Celtics to move forward to the Eastern Conference Finals series.

Lebron scored the final 10 points of the fourth quarter on his way to sending the veteran Boston team packing for the summer. While playing against the struggling Paul Pierce, five fouls entering the fourth quarter, James had space he normally wouldn’t to attack the rim and change direction at will. Pierce was forced to play off the athletic big man and allowed James to control the pace on the offensive end of the court en route to two consecutive dagger threes in the final minutes. Without their attacking captain, the C’s went scoreless for the last 4:15 of regulation as the Heat went on a 16-0 run to finish the original Boston Big 3 that has controlled the East for the last three years. Read the rest of this entry →

In the NBA, Great Teams Still Top Great Individuals 0

Posted on March 07, 2011 by Dean Hybl

It will take more than just the "Big 3" if the Miami Heat hope to win a championship.

The recent struggles of the Miami Heat offer another reminder that it takes more than just having great players to make a great team. Though the Heat have two of the best players in the game in Lebron James and Dwyane Wade and another All Star in Chris Bosh, they have yet to develop the chemistry needed to become championship contenders.

Through NBA history, there have been many teams with two or three superstars. However, what has helped some squads rise above the others to championship level has often been having a supporting cast specifically designed to accent the strengths of the star players.

Here is a look at five teams that had at least two superstars, but became super teams because of the supporting cast that filled specific roles and allowed the stars to be stars.

1980s Los Angeles Lakers – Arguably, the trio of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy makes James, Wade and Bosh look like the Three Stooges. When you add to the mix players like Byron Scott, Norm Nixon, Mychal Thompson, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, A.C. Green, Jamaal Wilkes and Bob McAdoo you have the makings of a team that won five World Championships and reached four other NBA Finals in a 12 year stretch.

1980s Boston Celtics – To compete with the great Lakers teams, the Boston Celtics of the 1980s had to have their own stable of superstars and great supporting players. While the supporting cast evolved over the decade, the trio of Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale was constant. At various times during the decade, the supporting cast that helped them to three titles and five finals in the decade included Tiny Archibald, Chris Ford, Cedric Maxwell, Gerald Henderson, Rick Robey , Danny Ainge, Quinn Buckner, Dennis Johnson, Scott Wedman, Bill Walton and M.L. Carr. Read the rest of this entry →

NBA Eastern Conference Preview: Can the Heat Buy a Championship? 2

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Dean Hybl

The Miami Heat have spent a lot of money to have three superstars, but can that bring them a title?

The NBA offseason was dominated by discussions about the Miami Heat and their acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go with proven star Dwyane Wade. Many have predicted that these additions have not only made the Heat the most talked about team in the NBA, but also a prohibitive favorite to win multiple championships over the next several years.

However, with the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks all are aiming to spoil the party for the Heat.

On opening night the Celtics reminded the Heat that they are still the conference champions with an 88-80 victory over Miami. With a bulls eye squarely on their back, the Heat will face similar challenges every night as they look to build team chemistry and look to live up to the hype.

Below is a division-by-division look at the Eastern Conference: Read the rest of this entry →

LeBron: Blame Canada Instead 1

Posted on July 25, 2010 by Ryan Durling

You can’t blame LeBron James.


LeBron was born in December of 1984. Not two years later, Run-DMC covered Aerosmith’s 1977 hit, “Walk This Way.”

Those two facts are very much related.

See, everyone went up in arms when LeBron broke up the LeBronettes and decided to play backup guitar in Dwayne Wade’s band. But he really only did what successful athletes/artists/actors have been doing his entire life.

Prior to the mid-80s, it was rare to see anybody go to bat for one of their rival’s teams – figuratively or literally speaking. When DMC covered Aerosmith, suddenly collaboration became the thing to do. It was a surefire way of saying, “yeah, I know I’m good, but imagine how good I could be with somebody else whose talents equal mine in a complimentary manner.”

Bird never would have played with Johnson. Russell never would have played with Wilt or Kareem. But why would they? They were the best at what they did and who needed anybody else?

The Prince still has some work to do before NBA fans will anoint him King.

Elvis didn’t mix with anybody else, and neither did the Beatles or Beach Boys a decade after him. Steve Miller? Don Henley? Freddie Mercury? He shared everything else with the world, but not his musical talents. None of them collaborated.

What about Pacino or Stallone or Harrison? Or DeNiro? Not in the 70s, anyway. Ford and Stallone, now well aware that they’re past their respective primes, have done a great job in supporting roles in the last 15 years or so – the atrocious Rocky Balboa notwithstanding.

Not even in the 80s did movie stars go out of their way to collaborate. Bruce Willis, Nic Cage and Tom Cruise – all rising stars in their own right – carried their own films, some more admirably than others.

But around the mid-80s, right when Run and Aerosmith were changing the game for good, a young Michael J. Fox teamed with Christopher Lloyd for the trans-generational hit Back to the Future. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman tag teamed on Rain Man. The rest of the 80s would see some classic teams produce epic hits: Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1988),  Costner and Tim Robbins in Bull Durham (1988), and Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally 1989).

It took longer for collaboration to catch on in music, primarily because there was such a divide in the 80s between the long-established Rock scene and the up-and-coming hip-hop genre. Ice Cube, Ice T, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre worked together late in the 80s in their N.W.A. project, but produced but one hit together, “F*ck the Police,” which earned a letter of warning from the FBI and will likely go down in history as the song that started the rap movement.

Dre and Snoop Dogg began the 90s by collaborating on a glut of hits that – mercifully – pushed MC Hammer and Right Said Fred quickly off the front pages of the Billboard charts. En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa, two groups influenced by Dre, were no strangers to collaboration either. It was Tupac who made collaboration big in hip-hop, however, working with artists from different labels and pushing their careers forward. Read the rest of this entry →

LeBron James: Legacy vs. Championships 1

Posted on July 23, 2010 by Ryan Heller

Will it hurt LeBron James' legacy that he is no longer an individual superstar?

It’s hard to tell what is in store for Lebron James as he tries to change his sense of direction for greatness. He may have a plan to make himself known as a champion team player rather than leaving a legacy of individual greatness like Michael Jordan. In some respects, it seems like Lebron gave up on the Cleveland Cavaliers and instead took a shortcut to becoming a champion by joining Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

I am not taking anything away from James, because he is a great athlete with unbelievable skill and talent. I just think that leaving a legacy is more impressive than just being a champion with no sense of leadership. James was a great player for the Cavaliers, but he was just learning to show the type of leadership that you now see from Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Sid Luckman: Chicago Bears Legend
      September 28, 2019 | 7:09 pm
      Sid Luckman

      After years of struggling to find a consistent quarterback, the Chicago Bears now hope third-year player Mitchell Trubisky will be their quarterback for years to come. As the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month we are recognizing the best quarterback in Chicago Bears history.

      Chosen out of Columbia–where he played tailback–with the second pick in the 1939 NFL Draft, Sid Luckman spent 12 seasons as the quarterback for the Bears and led them to five NFL Championship Game appearances and four titles.

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