The drama fuels ratings. Game 7 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics drew 28.2 million viewers, the highest for a basketball game since Michael Jordan played his final game for the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
The key to capturing the attention of the general public is to incorporate as much drama as possible in a short period of time. Why do you think the Jersey Shore is so popular? Eight housemates constantly fight, hook up, talk trash and break down emotionally during an hour.
The ratings for season two are constantly increasing, over 5 million people watched the third episode of the season, and with a third season looming, there is no stopping the shows momentum.
The same can be said about the Miami Heat.
Wade passed on an opportunity to return to his hometown, Chicago, to pursue another championship in Miami. James not only passed on returning to his hometown team (James grew up in nearby Akron, Ohio), he cruelly tortured Cleveland’s fan base by drawing out his choice on live television.
The underrated subplot of the Miami trio was Bosh leaving Toronto. Sure he’s not as much of a star as Wade or James, but Bosh ditching the Raptors may have doomed the franchise for years to come. Free agents never really consider Toronto as a possible landing spot and Bosh’s departure (along with Vince Carter forcing a trade during the 2003-04 season) really destroyed the team.
Landing free agents was already an uphill battle for the leagues lone Canadian team, but the obstacle is that much greater without a premier power forward on the roster.
With three scorned fan bases, the competitive balance of the NBA has shifted and the unique circumstance where the players mutiny on free agency will forever change the way championship teams are built.
Three of the top-5 picks (James was No. 1, Bosh No. 4 and Wade No. 5) from the 2003 NBA Draft, easily the best draft class of the past 25 years, joined forces in Miami to conqure the NBA. If this team makes a championship run, the NBA Finals will see an all-time high in ratings.
What makes this team so special?
Let’s take a closer look at the individual pieces:
Playing on a talented team for the first time in his NBA career, the winner of the last two MVP awards will have a choice in how he dominates the court. All of the talk about Miami being Wade’s team might be true, but with James controlling the flow of the game, will it really matter? James has averaged seven assists per game during his career, but no teammate has ever scored more than 18 points per game (Mo Williams averaged 17.8 ppg in 2008-09, most of any teammate) while playing alongside James. Miami doesn’t have a traditional point guard to dominate the ball, so look for James to continue his role as the main distributor, only with an immensely more talented team to flank him. With the Heat’s lack of size, James and Bosh will be counted on to control the glass, meaning the chosen one has a great opportunity to challenge Oscar Robertson as the only player to average a triple-double over the course of an entire season. James the facilitator, not the guy needed to do everything for a team, will make him even more valuable. Good luck writing James off as an MVP candidate.
Since his arrival in the NBA, Wade has been known as an unstoppable scoring machine. During Miami’s lone championship in 2005-06, Wade dragged the Heat to the title with his fearlessness driving the basket and ability to take over the fourth quarter. During Miami’s lone win against Boston in the opening round of the playoffs, Wade dropped 46 points and willed his team to victory. No question Wade is one of the most dominant offensive players in the league, but there is a misconception about his abilities. Did you know Wade has led the Heat in assists all seven years of his career? How about the fact no teammate has averaged more than 5.3 assists per game, even with Wade and Shaquille O’Neal to pass to, meaning he has never played with an elite distributor before. With James delivering crisp passes, Wade will have even more scoring opportunities than ever before. D-Wade has already proven he can score in crunch time, now he will finally have a teammate to set him up, or pass to, when the clock is winding down. Wade did catch Shaq towards the twilight of his prime, and was the only teammate to truly get along with him, proving he can put his ego aside and share victories with James and Bosh.
With Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan releasing their stranglehold on being the premier power forward in the league, Bosh is in position to claim the title for himself. As one of the last threats to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game (only Bosh, Zach Randolph and David Lee accomplished the feat last season) he is in a unique position: talented enough to dominate offensively, but considered the third option and facing low expectations. If the Heat lose, it won’t be viewed as Bosh not living up to expectations, but in order for them to win, he needs to step up his defensive presence. Two career averages he must improve: 1.2 blocks and 2.6 fouls per game. There will be no excuses not to be among the league leaders in blocks this season, with Wade and James locking down the perimeter, Bosh will be able to drift away from his man and provide help defense, swatting anything in the lane. How can a player improve on 2.6 fouls per game? Easy, commit more and harder fouls. Bosh is the de facto enforcer for this team, and he must punish anyone coming into the paint. With a huge target on Miami’s back, not to mention the 29 times the Heat will be featured on national television, no drive to the basket can be uncontested. The general public considers these stars soft for joining forces, it’s Bosh’s job to become the team’s muscle. Each has been counted on as a leader on their own teams, they must for a defensive chemistry and Bosh is the key.
No NBA team has been scrutinized like the 2009-2010 Miami Heat and with over 1/3 of their games being nationally televised, everyone will be tuning in to see the drama in South Beach.