A few weeks ago, I took my 2-year-old to see Sesame Street Live at Miami's American Airlines Arena. When we got home, Max couldn't stop chattering about the sunflower in Big Bird's garden, the six ladybugs at the ladybug picnic, the giant cruise ships at the port behind the arena. But the first thing he said when he burst through the door was: "Mommy, Elmo came to D-Wade's house!"
That's my boy. Max, I mean. But sure, Dwyane Wade, too; I can relate to the guy in the T-Mobile ad. For Max's first birthday, I slapped a "This Is My House" poster with a photo of Max's face taped over D-Wade's on our front door. I moved to Miami right when Wade arrived, and I've been a die-hard Heat fan ever since. There aren't too many of us.
Tonight, there might be a lot more of us. LeBron James is announcing his future destination on ESPN, and the latest rumor has him joining Wade and fellow free agent Chris Bosh in Miami. (For what it's worth, my wife, who wouldn't know Chris Paul from Ron Paul, just called to relay a rumor that LeBron has booked six suites at the W Hotel in South Beach.) It would be a true Dream Team, the greatest NBA trio ever, a candidate for the all-time trio pantheon with the Three Tenors, Three Stooges and Three Musketeers. It would be a Holy Trinity of the hardwood.
So why do I feel so ambivalent? Why do I find myself rooting for LeBron to go somewhere else? Don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled that Bosh is coming to town. He's a terrific big man, even if he does have a weirdly nerdy vibe, and the Heat needed to pick up another legitimate star to keep Wade in Miami. I was afraid the Heat would commit organizational suicide by giving a max contract to a good-but-not-great player like Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer, but Bosh is a no-brainer. He announced his plans yesterday at lunchtime; by dinnertime Max had learned to shout "Bosh!" which, let's face it, is a superfun word for a 2-year-old to shout.
And there's no doubt about it: LeBron is the best player on the planet. He's never won a championship, but that's only because he's been surrounded by stiffs. With Kobe Bryant's supporting cast, he'd have Kobe's rings and then some. With Wade and Bosh, he could have a dynasty with me running point and you playing center. He's a beast, a genius, a triple-double machine who plays the right way.
So what's my hangup? I guess it's partly a vague sense of unfairness, a nagging feeling that the basketball gods don't want dynasties to be created through the athletic equivalent of corporate mergers and leveraged buyouts. LeBron and D-Wade are supposed to compete, not collude; their duels are always classic. (The first time I took Max to a game at the AAA, Wade outscored LeBron 36-34, but the Cavs won.) Snagging the three best free agents would be an amazing coup for Mickey Arison and Pat Riley and every other owner and general manager in the league would do it if they could but it feels like the kind of move I'd hate if anyone else did it. Especially since the Heat's most attractive selling point, even better than its classy organization, is probably the lack of income taxes in Florida. Great. Our no-tax policy hasn't attracted many Fortune 500 companies, and it's one of the main reasons we have such dysfunctional public finances and such pitiful public services, but it might help land the Big Three. Um ... hooray?
Anyway, while a team that stacked would be fun to watch, it would be awkward to root for. The Heat would be expected to win big every night; anything less would be considered underperforming. It was unsatisfying enough to root for the actual Dream Team during the Olympics, and those guys were at least playing for the country where they happened to be born. Miami's Dream Team would feel like the best-armed mercenaries money could buy. And the Heat bandwagon would be overrun by gorgeous but vapid poseurs. (Granted, I've only been on it for six years, so I shouldn't complain, but that's a lifetime in a region this transient.)
The rest of the country, of course, would hate us even more than it already does. That's actually a point in LeBron's favor. Yeah, yeah, Miami is a mindless resort town, a real estate Ponzi scheme, a banana republic surprisingly close to the United States. But you know you wished you lived here. You don't really enjoy "the seasons." And we welcome your envy.
I think my real problem with LeBron is that he'd ruin the narrative. Wherever LeBron goes, that's going to be LeBron's house. But the Triple-A really is D-Wade's house, even if he lets Elmo visit, and it would be even if this magical moment had never happened. He's a brilliant player, a fearless and transcendent talent who makes his teammates better; it's been frustrating watching him pass out of triple-teams to guys who can't shoot. He carried Shaquille O'Neal to a championship, which LeBron couldn't do. But he is not LeBron. He's not the guy with the one-hour prime-time special to announce where he wants to live. He's not a guy who wants to be a global brand. He's a guy going through a messy divorce, a guy who picked some bad business partners, a guy who happens to play basketball spectacularly well. He's put the Heat on the map.
LeBron is going to get a lot of flak for his self-indulgent Hamlet act, and there is something off-putting about his "Chosen One" tattoo and "KingJames" Twitter account and "Witness" Nike ads. And if he comes to Miami and insists that Riley take over as coach when Erik Spoelstra has been doing a terrific job with a mediocre team I'm going to have a tough time rooting for him. But he really is magnificent, and he seems like a good teammate. I bet Wade would love to play with him.
Personally, though, I'd prefer to see Wade win another championship for Wade's team in Wade's house. I think the basketball gods would like that too.