The results are in and we're calling it: The Miami Heat got the best LeBron. It's over. Break out those special cigars and that bottle of limited edition small-batch whiskey you were saving. We freakin' did it, Miami.
Cleveland Cavaliers? Yeah, LeBron willed them to a title. But they wasted his talents for over a decade with subpar supporting casts.
Los Angeles Lakers? Woof. The team is 33-41 despite a win over the Wizards last night and almost certain to miss the playoffs this year. This is sad. By the time they figure it out, LeBron will be over-the-hill and need someone to carry him.
So now it's clear that when people look back on arguably the greatest basketball player's career, they'll consider 2011-2014 his best four-year stretch.
Don't take our word for it, though. The facts back it up.
1. LeBron won two of his three titles in Miami in a comparatively short period of time. Right out of the gate, we'll state the obvious — and according to Michael Jordan-is-the-G.O.A.T. fans — the only stat that matters: LeBron won two titles in Miami in four seasons. By comparison, James won just a single title in his 11 seasons in Cleveland and hasn't even made the playoffs so far in Los Angeles.
If playoff wins and rings are important, this should be all that matters — LeBron had his most successful seasons in Miami. These are the indisputable facts.
2. 'Miami Against the World' LeBron was the most frightening LeBron. Before James joined the Heat in 2011, he was the darling of the NBA. Everyone loved him. Everyone wanted him to sign with their team in free agency. LeBron could have run for office before he came to Miami.
Then, after LeBron announced on an ESPN special titled "The Decision" that he was taking his talents to South Beach, everyone came at the king mad spicy. Said spicy-mouthed naysayers and haters proceeded to catch all the LeBron-smoke they could handle.
Miami LeBron was a raging bull charging through a mall high on cocaine. He did what he pleased and anyone who dared peek out to see what was going on got
LeBron was damn near a Disney story in Cleveland before and after Miami. He was the good guy there. In Miami, he was the villain. The entire team took on that persona and played the heel for the rest of the NBA. Dammit if it wasn't the best thing we've ever seen.
3. LeBron's most memorable teams will always be "the Heatles." When people review James' career in 20 years, Miami will be the bacon in his career BLT. His time in Miami was both the most talked about and the most dynamic.
LeBron-Miami "Big 3" teams changed the NBA. Everything since has been a copycat. It was a huge
But in the end, it was not only successful and great for the league, but fun. Fun for the team and the fans. The Golden State Warriors aren't as thrilling to watch as the Heatles. The tension was much higher and the show much more dramatic.
4. Miami changed LeBron forever. LeBron has called his four seasons in Miami his "college," which makes sense when you look at how his game evolved with the Heat. It's hard to remember, but before Miami, LeBron wasn't nearly the player he has become. He's efficient offensively and can cover all five positions defensively.
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In short, LeBron wouldn't be the LeBron we all know and love without his stay in Miami. So you're welcome, everyone.
5. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the best teammates LeBron has ever had. It's not even clear the Los Angeles Lakers are serious with the cast they put around James this year. Team president Magic Johnson literally made them a worse team. The Cavaliers surrounded LeBron with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and a lot of nice pieces that fit. But in the end, the Heat did the most with the least in giving LeBron a supporting cast that helped him succeed.
Shane Battier and Ray Allen are future Hall of Famers. For Miami, they were nice pickups to add to Chris Bosh (whose big celebration last night brought tears to many eyes) and Dwyane Wade. Cleveland gave LeBron J.R. Smith. It remains to be seen what the Lakers can do with cap space this summer, but it's very unlikely, in today's NBA, that they can match what the Heat did before the league altered salary cap rules to stop it from happening again.