The new NBA season tips off on October 26 with a mouth-watering clash as the new-look Miami Heat visit the Boston Celtics. That game will be a fitting opening to what is arguably the most anticipated basketball season since Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls back in 1998.
During the off-season, the Heat pulled off perhaps the greatest coup in the history of the league by re-signing Dwyane Wade and acquiring free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors respectively.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Wade and LeBron are two of the top-three players in basketball alongside the L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. Add to the duo a top-five big man in Bosh, and the Heat have all the ingredients to not only compete for multiple championships over the next five years, but even challenge the all-time single season wins mark of 72 set by the Bulls in 1996.
Basketball fans are used to seeing the top stars battling it out in the past. Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson in the 1980s, Michael Jordan vs. Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing vs. Reggie Miller in the 1990s are just some of the big-name rivalries the NBA had to offer, but the Heat’s new trio went in a completely new direction by deciding to join forces.
Some might argue that the Celtics began the trend in 2007 when they brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce. Even though they went on to win the title in their first season together, the Boston trio was not even close to such star power as the new-look Heat.
Believe it or not, the super power that is the Heat is not the only talking point ahead of the new season. The two-time defending champion Lakers are looking to make it a three-peat for coach Phil Jackson. Jackson, who’s won a record 11 championships, is uncertain if this will be his last season.
But if he does end up retiring, he will undoubtedly prefer to do it after a fourth career three-peat. Another title for the Lakers come June would also be Bryant’s sixth overall, which would equal the championships Jordan won during his career.
For that to happen, Bryant has to recover from a nagging knee injury and hope the rest of the roster stays relatively healthy. Including Bryant, seven Lakers that should see significant minutes are 30 years old or older.
Last season’s losing finalists, the Boston Celtics, added Shaquille O’Neal from the Cavaliers and Jermaine O’Neal from the Heat. After the Lakers badly out-rebounded Boston in Games 6 and 7 of the Finals last season, the Celtics hope the O’Neals are just what the doctor ordered.
Alongside Boston and Miami, the East should be loaded this season. Dwight Howard and the Magic will look to return to the Finals after a one-year absence, while the Chicago Bulls quietly assembled a very competitive team after missing out on free-agents Wade, LeBron and Bosh.
The Bulls instead got big man Carlos Boozer and sharp-shooter Kyle Korver, both from the Utah Jazz, to play alongside stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Boozer, who’s been injury-prone throughout his career, will miss the first month of the season after breaking his hand.
According to Boozer, he tripped over a bag while attempting to answer the door at his home in early October. If the Bulls can stay healthy after his return, they should challenge for a high seed right behind the Magic and Celtics.
But for all the other off-season moves, none will be scrutinized more than LeBron’s decision to leave the Cavs for Miami. LeBron is now the sixth-most disliked sports personality in the United States according to the Q Score company.
When asked of the fans’ new dislike of him in an interview with CNN, LeBron pointed out that Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant are ahead of him on the dislike list. He said that in order to be successful, you have to be hated.
Many former stars have had their fair share of comments on LeBron’s migration to South Beach. Barkley, who is now an NBA analyst, said that LeBron’s legacy would have benefited more from winning a title in Cleveland, rather than Miami. Barkley also said that no matter how many titles LeBron wins in Miami, the Heat would always be Wade’s team.
Even Jordan spoke out by saying that he never would have called Magic or Bird and asked them to play on the same team. You figure it’s against his competitive nature. Jordan wanted to beat Magic and Bird, not win with them. It seems that after seven championship-less seasons in Cleveland, LeBron chose the mantra “if you can’t beat them, join them.” And for that reason fans outside of Miami this upcoming season can be forgiven for hating the Heat.