The first basic lesson taught in law school is how to read a case. Reading the decisions of judges and justices is widely considered the best way to “think like a lawyer.” Cases are the best representation of the adversarial system put into effect. There’s a set of facts, a law that governs the scenario, a decision made by a judge or jury, and the reasoning laid out to support the ultimate finding. But the most important sentence in the entire case — and that’s usually all it is; one sentence — is the issue. It’s phrased either as a question or a sentence beginning with “whether” and it provides the framework for the ultimate conclusion. With this in mind, advocates do all that they can to frame the issue in the best way for their client.
Framing the issue is on my mind because the issue of these Finals and this Miami Heat team seems to have been distorted. On Twitter, I had seen references made to a bizarre question, and on SportsCenter last night I heard it asked again — this time to Kurt Rambis:
If the Heat didn’t win this championship, was the “Big 3” experiment a failure?
When the question is posed this way — posed as “the issue” — it implies that it’s a good question worthy of arguments on both sides. It isn’t and it isn’t. Even if the Heat lost last night, or in Game 6, or even in the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana, the “experiment” of re-signing Dwyane Wade and acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency was a wild success.
In the four years preceding “The Decision,” Miami had win totals of 47, 43, 15, and 44. The Heat hadn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since the title season in 2006. Their only high draft choice was used on Michael Beasley instead of superstars to be Kevin Love or Russell Westbrook. In the Summer of 2010 the only thing Miami had going for it was an attractive market and a whole lotta cap space.
When those ingredients plus Pat Riley’s brilliant puppet mastery led to the retention of D-Wade and acquisitions of King James and Bosh, the entire conversation changed. The challenge of the previous seasons — escaping the first round — was immediately supplanted by questions of whether the Heat would win “not one, not two…” championship rings.
As you know, the Big 3 has now been to all three possible Finals as a trio, they’ve won two rings, and they are by far and away the biggest hit show that travels to NBA arenas every season.
The way that question is posed — focusing on “the experiment” — suggests that there was some plausible alternative that might’ve been better than this embarrassment of riches. Should Riley have focused on Carmelo instead of LeBron? Should he have kept Mike Beasley and stayed away from Chris Bosh? It’s nonsense. Even if Ray Allen’s three rimmed out, or the Spurs had rallied to take Game 7 last night, the Miami Heat off-season of 2010 would’ve gone down as one of the greatest in league history.