Commentary

The Heat is on

Updated: May 24, 2011, 2:45 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane WadeMarc Serota/Getty ImagesAre the Miami Heat actually living up to the hype? It pains Rick Reilly to admit it, but they've already exceeded expectations.

It tastes like Drano in my mouth, but I've got to say it: The Miami Heat are pulling off one of the greatest I Told You So's in the history of American sports.

I hate how they conspired. Hate how they manipulated. Hate how they went behind the backs of the GMs and the league and their own teammates to pull off something so audacious it threatens to ruin the very fabric of the league.

And yet they're doing the single hardest thing in sports. They're living up to the hype.

Remember how they preened and pranced at that preseason throw-up-on-your-back-teeth debutante party in July as if they were the second coming of the 1991 Chicago Bulls?

Well, so far, aren't they?

Remember how Dwyane Wade said he and LeBron James and Chris Bosh would wind up in the discussion of the "best threesome" to ever play?

Well, won't they?

Remember when Wade said we should feel "sorry" for the other teams because they'd have to guard him and James at the same time?

I'd rather see Donald Trump on the $5 bill than see the Miami Heat win this championship.

Well, don't we?

Look, I'd rather see Donald Trump on the $5 bill than see the Miami Heat win this championship. Three superstars colluding to win a ring would be the worst thing to happen to the NBA since The Gold Club.

But you have to admit: They've been as good as they said they were going to be. Hubris 1, Humility 0.

From the moment James took what seemed like 11 cheese-filled hours to say, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach," the mocking began from Celtic Nation to Laker Land and everywhere in between.

Remember Orlando Magic president Otis Smith saying, "I thought he was more of a competitor"?

Well, James is 10-3 in these playoffs. Is that competitive enough for you?

Remember how the critics chirped that the only way the Heat can win is if there were three balls? That NBA superstars might be able to share groupies, but not limelight?

Well James, Wade and Bosh have led the team in scoring five, five and three times, respectively, in the playoffs so far. Is that sharing enough for you?

Remember Crygate?

Remember the five-game losing streak when everybody outside the 305 area code wrung their hands with glee and kept saying, "See? See? Greed kills!"?

Well, it doesn't.

Remember when writers wailed that Erik Spoelstra, the Heat head coach who looks like he's in his first year of divinity school, was too much of a milquetoast for the Threegos and should be replaced?

Well, Spoelstra weathered it with patience and guts.

You think James was under the gun? Can you imagine the vise Spoelstra's noggin was in? With Pat Riley and his six rings two rows behind him? But he hung in, stuck with his "Trust each other" mantra and now you wonder if they named the wrong guy Coach of the Year.

Remember the James jabbing? Remember "Witless," the beer brewed to mock LeBron and his Nike "Witness" campaign?

Remember when people were saying he failed more in crunch time than soggy corn flakes? When James had to apologize to his teammates for "failing them late in games" and promised, "I won't continue to do that"?

Well, he delivered. Game 5 in the Celtics series: scored the last 10 points. Game 2 versus Chicago: nine of the Heat's last 12. Game 3 versus Chicago: two daggers late.

Remember the Bosh bashing? Remember pundits saying the former Toronto Raptors superstar would simmer and then boil over at suddenly being a third wheel? Two and a Half Men? The Third Heatle? Remember when he said he needed to start getting the rock more often and where and when he liked it?

Well, Wade and James started giving it to him and now George Harrison has two 30-point games in these playoffs alone.

So, yes, it goes down my throat like tumbleweed, but I have to eat it: The Heat were right. They've been as good as advertised.

Actually, they've been better.

You knew Miami was getting three mega-scorers on one team who were going to wear out a lot of scoreboard operators' thumbs. But what's happened instead? They've been winning it with great passing, teamwork and suffocating, selfless, you-cover-my-butt-while-I-cover-yours defense. The Psychic Helpline couldn't have predicted that.

I want to hate the Heat, want it like my next breath, but Wade is nice, James is fun, Bosh is sincere, Spoelstra is cool, Riley is brilliant, and the way they all play is so damn selfless, I can't.

I'm pissed that I can't be pissed.

And it makes me think.

Remember when James said they might win seven titles before their own personal Dream Team's days were through?

Well, that's still stupid.


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's new book, "Sports from Hell."

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com