Published October 26, 2010
It has been 110 days since LeBron James’ “Decision” to take his considerable talents to Miami’s South Beach in exchange for losing the hearts of thousands of NBA fans.
When the Celtics open the season tonight against James’ Miami Heat, the eyes of basketball fans everywhere will be fixed on Boston. Subplots abound like a bad daytime soap opera.
Miami Heat's LeBron James during a preseason NBA game in Miami on Oct. 18. (AP)
Fans of both teams are expecting a title run. Miami’s roster includes two of the top 10 players in the league (and, possibly, three of the top 15). Some would argue that James is the best player in the NBA. The Celtics came within mere minutes of bringing home their 18th title banner before dropping Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the LA Lakers.
James shook the NBA universe on that fateful night at the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club. When he announced he was ditching his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the brighter lights of Miami (and the waiting arms of two other NBA stars), James piled the weight of expectations on his shoulders.
He has been caricatured as the first sports villain of my lifetime – Snidely Whiplash with a pair of Nikes. It’s no stretch to say that James went from one of the most popular athletes to one of the most derided. In baseball, Bostonians often say they root for “the Red Sox and whoever’s playing the Yankees.” Now, NBA fans across the country are rooting hard – against LeBron.
In a game of 5-on-5, all eyes will be on two sets of Big Threes: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for Boston; Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh for Miami.
If you’re from Boston, the Celtics’ “Big Three” is battle-tested. If you’re not, they’re old. If you’re from Miami, the Heat’s “Big Three” is full of promise. If you’re not, they represent a misguided attempt to pair incompatible styles of play.
Last season, Rajon Rondo emerged as one of the NBA’s best young stars. He’s faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings in a single-bound. If he only had a reliable jump shot, he’d be unstoppable.
The Celtics eliminated both Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers from the playoffs last season. This sequel should be more like Godfather II than Ironman 2.
On Tuesday, Boston is the center of the basketball universe. Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and fans everywheah hope I’ll be writing the same thing in June.