On the court, this year failed to meet expectations, but off the court, Miami Heat fans brought it strong when most said they wouldn't. When LeBron James decided to take his ball and go home last summer, the popular narrative among NBA media outlets was that bitter Heat fans would stay home. They didn't, and any notion that Miami is a bandwagon basketball town died in 2015.
The doubters obviously hadn't been paying attention to the fan base before LeBron came to Miami, because if they had, they would have known that the Heat long ago proved it's one of the best-supported teams in the NBA.
Instead, fans brought it hard this year. So rather than recap the pain on the hardwood, let's relive the best moments of Heat Nation off the court this season:
Contrary to popular belief, no sections of the American Airlines Arena had to be tarped off this season.
Listen, every team inflates its attendance numbers. Let's not pretend there hasn't been a "sellout" this year that had less than the full capacity of butts-in-seats that night. The thing is, there are a lot of teams in the NBA that can't even pull off this white lie. Nobody would believe the Brooklyn Nets if they announced a string of sellouts, much less 197 in a row. Yet some of those teams' fans and the media continue to take shots at Heat fans.
The Miami Heat's floor is most teams' ceiling when it comes to attendance, but nobody will talk about that. Nobody takes a picture of the Brooklyn Nets' empty arena because nobody cares about the Brooklyn Nets. Also, nobody is there to take the picture, so they would have to use one of those mounted motion-detecting cameras, like the ones the crazies use in Finding Bigfoot.
Don't let facts get in the way of your negative-Heat-fan narrative; the numbers tell the true story.
Take a picture, write it down, repeat after me: "Thou shalt check ESPN.com's NBA attendance numbers before thou speaks from thy buttocks about subjects thou hast not researched." Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Push that button on the thing that looks like a small TV in your home, and type "NBA attendance ESPN" into the Google spot where there is a blinking cursor. What will happen will be something that will change your life: knowledge will be available to you, at no additional charge.
Yes, many season tickets are sold the year before, in the Heat's case while LeBron James still played for the team, but season tickets don't fill an entire arena. Just the other day, Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted that the team was offering standing-room-only seats for a game because they didn't have enough actual seats for as many butts that wanted to see a Heat team that was starting Henry Walker. Think these numbers are easy to make up? The Cleveland Cavaliers don't. After LeBron left, their attendance numbers dropped from 12th in the league and 97.8 percent full at home to 27th in attendance and 77.5 percent full.
Miami Heat fans have continued to be among the NBA's most active fan bases on social media.
Nowadays you can judge a team's popularity not only by fans' physical presence at the games but also by the team's social media following, and see where those fans interacting with the teams live. Earlier this year, Twitter released some analytics that compared each team's following, all the way down to each county in each state. The Heat had one of the highest interaction rates in the NBA, and surprisingly enough, multiple counties in Ohio actually contained more Heat fans than Cavs fans. What that obviously means is a boatload of LeBron James fans took their Twitter talents to South Beach in 2010, and it appears some have stayed since he went home. Some might refer to that as "jumping on the Miami Heat bandwagon," but we'll just call it irony. Big Brother is always watching, Ohio.
What's really cool about these interactive maps Twitter released is you can compare team-to-team where the most fans of a franchise live, and in the Heat's case, a bunch live outside Miami. Obviously, all teams have fans outside the state they play in, but it seems as if the Heat has sunk in roots in more places than any other team outside of the New York Knicks and L.A. Lakers.
Oh, this did not make people very happy. Here is what Forbes had to say about Miami Heat fans:
But then we looked at the team’s numbers pre-LeBron and realized there was no need to jump on the Heat-hater bandwagon. Fact is the team has ranked in the top 5 in the league in attendance and/or filled their arena to capacity since the 2004-05 season. Thanks to Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and LeBron’s 4-year train stop, the team has had a player among those with the best selling jersey and/or the team’s merchandise has ranked among the league’s best-selling since 2004. The team ranks 3rd in the league in terms of its social media sheer volume of fans and its following as a percent of its population, a number that shows its reach extends beyond Miami-Dade County. To boot, LeBron’s exit didn’t lead to a mass exodus of fans. The Heat are still playing to a full capacity crowd and its merchandise remains among the top-selling in the league. There is enough momentum that the team signed an extension with Fox’s Sun Sports this past November that pays triple the current rights fee and keeps them on the network through the 2024/25 season.Gently places microphone on stage.
Well, well, well. Looks like Forbes just filled a supersoaker with facts and drenched those Heat haters in truth. We can only imagine how tight Michael Wilbon's ass cheeks got when he read this.
Heat fans have handled the transition from being a title contender to being a fringe playoff team riddled with injuries very well.
It has begun to sink in. The Miami Heat made four straight trips to the NBA Finals, and we were so very, very spoiled. No one would have blamed Heat fans — wait, that's not true — everyone would have blamed Heat fans if they showed less interest in the team this season, but that didn't happen. Heat fans handled LeBron James' return to the Triple A with absolute class and for the most part have done everything the complete opposite as Cavs fans did when faced with a similar letdown when LeBron bolted to Miami in 2010. Heat fans have shown up to games, discussed the team on social media, and bought the team's swag at a rate consistent with past years, stretching way back before LeBron James ever entered the NBA.
Heat fans should be proud of their performance this season. It's obvious the narrative that a Heat fan is a bandwagon fan is incorrect. I guess they just hate us 'cause they ain't us.