Sports

Nine Reasons the Miami Heat Weren't "Bubble Frauds"

"Bubble frauds"? Not so fast.
"Bubble frauds"? Not so fast. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty
Bubble frauds.

By now, you've heard the haters and naysayers use the term to diminish the Miami Heat's incredible NBA Finals run last season. The cries that Miami's Eastern Conference title has an asterisk next to it only grew louder as the Heat's season ended this past weekend with a whimper via a first-round sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The narrative after Miami's poor playoff performance is that it serves as further proof that the pandemic gave the Heat an advantage. But here in Miami? We say nice try. We say it's a good thing everyone recently panic-bought gasoline, because they'll need it to keep that excuse machine running all summer.

The Miami Heat were never, are not, and have never been bubble frauds. It's a mean thing to say, and it's flat-out wrong. Here's why.
The Heat had an advantage in the bubble. It's legitimately confusing that other teams and their fans are openly admitting the Miami Heat had an advantage in a neutral environment. I don't think this means what you think it means.


So let's get this straight: The Bucks weren't as mentally tough, well-coached, or comfortable as the Heat was living in a hotel without their families for a month? Wow, you got us.
Other bubble-successful teams have struggled, too. For some reason, the Heat has been singled out as the only team that benefited from the Orlando bubble. Nobody seems to be calling the Boston Celtics — the team Miami beat to go to the Finals — frauds. They've been eliminated. Same goes for the Lakers, the team that beat Miami in the Finals to win a championship and is currently in a dogfight to make it out of the first round.

If you're going to call the Miami Heat "bubble guppies," call everyone that. It's hurtful and wrong. It's funny but mean!
All the teams involved are completely different. In an experiment, there must be constants and variables. If people want to assume the variable that made the Miami Heat a better team was the bubble, they would need to see that exact-same team play the exact-same teams they played. We don't have that here. That's not how any of this works.

What we did have was a completely different Milwaukee Bucks team and a Heat roster that was roughly 50 percent different from last season. Comparing what happened in the past to what happened last week makes no sense.
Three of Miami's best players had COVID entering the bubble. It's easy to forget because they proceeded to kick everyone's asses in Orlando, but Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo all had been recovering from COVID-19 before entering the bubble. Kendrick Nunn, in particular, hurt. He was Miami's starting point guard and never really recovered or was himself.

Oh, your team had a hard time with the hotel food? Did they get COVID?! You sound like a baby!
'The environment was different." Celtics guard Jayson Tatum says things were different in the bubble. The environment was different. People who "don't usually play that way" played differently.

Welcome to the NBA playoffs, I guess? That's literally what happens in the playoffs every year. Role-players often make the difference. History is littered with NBA champions that had guys like Tyler Herro get hot at the right time.

Someone call the wambulance for Tatum.
COVID messed with this season more than the last. If there's a season that should ever have an asterisk on it, it should be this one. At least in the bubble, everyone was well-rested and at relatively full strength.

This year, the Heat was hit especially hard by COVID protocols. Half the roster missed time. The Heat never really had a chance to get going.
The elephant in the room. Out of pure greed, the NBA decided it needed to start this season roughly two months after play in the bubble concluded. That meant teams like the Atlanta Hawks, which last played a game in March 2020, were facing teams like the Heat, which played into mid-October.

That's bullcrap. The Hawks players could have made a baby in the time their bodies rested. The Heat didn't even have a long enough offseason to binge-watch Game of Thrones. And we're supposed to sit here and pretend all teams were created equal this year.
Miami had no business being a six seed. Part of the reason Heat players are at home sitting on their couches right now instead of fighting for another NBA title is they finished as the sixth seed in the East, which meant they had to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. The biggest reason Miami was a six seed and not a three seed is the fact that Jimmy Butler missed time with injuries and COVID. With him, Miami was one of the best teams in the NBA.

If Miami wasn't recovering from a short offseason and dealing with COVID issues, it would have likely played the Knicks or the Hawks in the first round. The Heat would have been favorites against either of those teams.
Every season is its own season. In the end, the biggest reason the 2021 Miami Heat can't be responsible for matching the successes of the 2020 Miami Heat is because this isn't the 2020 team. This is a different team playing under different circumstances, and even in a normal season, past successes mean nothing moving forward.

Miami's season had a poor, and unlucky, ending. That doesn't mean last season is null and void. And it definitely doesn't mean the Heat would have never been successful without a pandemic. 
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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.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi