On Thursday night, the Miami Heat became the sixth NBA franchise ever to win back-to-back titles. Are we witnessing a modern basketball dynasty? Bill Littlefield discussed the team’s latest accomplishment with Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
BL: The San Antonio Spurs enjoyed a three games to two series lead coming into Miami for games six and seven. Were you surprised the Heat was finally able to win two games in a row?
DH: Well, it had been about a month since they had so, you know what? I wasn’t really surprised. They have the best player on the planet in LeBron James, and in the last two games he played like it. Really, when you parse everything and look at the thousand ways games are won and lost, it ultimately came down to LeBron James being the best player on the planet.
BL: You were at the games in Miami, of course, San Antonio had golden opportunities to win that franchise’s fifth title. How did the Spurs take it after game seven?
DH: Like any losing locker room, especially when you lose in game seven when you really had the series won in game six, it was a devastating locker room. You saw Gregg Popovich, who’s essentially a hardened football coach coaching basketball, had tears in his eyes at the press conference. Tim Duncan, who’s a great champion, was just the voice of disappointment afterward. So, San Antonio had won four previous titles, but their moment of defeat defined their greatness perhaps more than any of their four titles.
BL: LeBron James is often criticized for being selfish off the court. Sometimes he’s criticized for being unselfish on the court. He’s criticized for not being a big-game player. He’s criticized for being a spoiled media brat. Are any of these criticisms justifiable?
DH: Well, you know what, I’ve covered him the last three years, and from a media standpoint he talks every day after practice or after games, sometimes before games. He doesn’t come to you with an attitude. You don’t have to tip toe around with your questions. Look, he made two big mistakes in coming to Miami: one was the Decision. The second was their celebration where he said not one, not two, not …. not seven titles he’ll win. Those were two mistakes. When you win two championships in sports, all the credibility comes to you and all the criticism swings the other way. Now, his unselfishness on the court is seen as not something to criticize but something to praise and his talent isn’t held against him, but it’s something to recognize for how unique it is.
BL: A moment ago you seemed to be speaking of the Spurs in the past tense. Do you think that this year was their last chance to win a championship for a while?
DH: It’d been six years since they were in the NBA Finals and now Tim Duncan will be 38 next year, Manu Ginobili, 36. The Heat you expect to be here again next year because LeBron’s 28. Chris Bosh is 29. A lot of their components are still relatively young. But for San Antonio this is probably their great goodbye for this era.
BL: Well as you say, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and of course LeBron James will all be around for at least another year, and most of the bench will also be back. So will we be seeing three-peat signs on Collins Ave.?
DH: Not yet, but Pat Riley coined the phrase three-peat with the Los Angeles Lakers, or he patented perhaps. But I think we soon will. That will be coming, and that will be the next expectation for them. The amazing thing about the Heat these last three years is that they’ve made every game a drama. I would be disappointed if that changes for next year.