Sports

The Miami Heat Were Never Bubble Frauds

Miami Heat's P.J. Tucker (center) and Jimmy Butler (right) are interviewed after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 10, 2022.
Miami Heat's P.J. Tucker (center) and Jimmy Butler (right) are interviewed after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 10, 2022. Photo by Michael Raeves/Getty Images
Between the pandemic, inflation, and Tuanon conspiracies, you would be forgiven if in the past two years the injustice of opposing fanbases calling the Miami Heat bubble frauds following their 2020 NBA Finals playoff run has completely slipped your mind. 

It hasn't slipped ours.

Ever since the Heat ended their incredible COVID-shortened season in the Orlando bubble, haters, naysayers, and opposing fan bases have mocked the Miami Heat as a team, saying they weren't that good and took advantage of the circumstances.

Well, two years later, the Heat are once again back in the Eastern Conference Finals, and those bubble-fraud allegations have suddenly dissipated. Of course, it's clear now that the Heat's 2020 run was never fraudulent; it was a sign of things to come. Here are five reasons the Heat were always for real.

Performances Since the Bubble

If the Miami Heat were indeed bubble frauds, then they should have fallen off once less beneficial circumstances prevailed. However, it's the teams that were alongside them in the 2020 Conference Finals that have fallen off — not the Heat.

The Boston Celtics (the team Miami faced in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals) have since ripped their organization apart, changing head coaches and general managers. They're only now poised to meet the Heat again in the same place they did two years ago.

The Denver Nuggets have been bounced from the playoffs early both years since 2020. And the Los Angeles Lakers, the team Miami lost to in those Finals, didn't make the playoffs this year at all.

Bubble frauds? Maybe. But it seems like folks have been calling the wrong team bubble frauds.

Bubble Blowouts

It would be one thing to say the Miami Heat got through the Eastern Conference by the skin of their teeth in the 2020 playoffs because of the so-called bubble atmosphere, but the Heat dominated opponents: In 2020 Miami was 12-3 through the East series before losing to the Lakers in the Finals in six games. That's not close. That's a hot knife through butter.

The Roster

Miami was a team whose members had only just met each other prior to COVID, and even if they were stuck in Orlando for the duration of the bubble, they didn't experience any comfort. That's because, in 2020, the Miami Heat's roster had just been thrown together: Tyler Herro was a rookie, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala had just arrived via trade, Jimmy Butler was in his first season, and Duncan Robinson was still an unproven, up-and-coming rotation player.

Back then, nothing was set. Credit coaching — not the bubble — for a team that came together at the right time and caught lightning in a bottle.

Injuries and Fatigue

Not only did the Miami Heat dominate in the Orlando bubble, but they did so while battling injuries. Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both missed time in the NBA Finals, and Jimmy Butler played 45 of a possible 48 minutes in a handful of games in Orlando. To this day, Heat fans swear those circumstances cost the franchise a championship.

Between the injuries and fatigue, Miami experienced zero advantages in 2020. It was just hard work, determination, and, at times, a little bit of luck.

The 2022 Season

When it comes down to it, the 2022 Miami Heat season should put to bed any talk that 2020 was a fluke. The Heat are right back where they were then, even as the circumstances have shifted back to what they were pre-COVID.

The Heat had the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2022. They're in the Eastern Conference Finals. And the only change they've made was replacing some veteran starters like Jae Crowder with G-League signings Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. If anything, things have gotten harder for the Heat since the Orlando bubble — yet here they are back in the Final Four.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.