By: Enrique Sierra, Jr.
Do you remember your favorite sports moment? Are you able to pick a singular one? Well, I do and I am.
The NBA Playoffs are well underway and the first round has been more entertaining than I even hoped. The most obviously glaring issue in the NBA’s current format is the grueling regular season, struggling to maintain the interests of good teams looking ahead, bad teams looking to tank for draft picks, and even the fans who receive the product. However, what it so clearly lacks in the 82-game marathon, it more than makes up for in its playoffs schedule. Oh, man is this shit good! Setting aside the absurdity of a league that holds 30 teams allowing 16 to make the post-season – for those of you exceptional at math, that’s more than half -, the playoffs provide everything we long for in the regular season; the intensity, effort, and meaning that manifests itself in the way the players approach the games makes the whole thing so much more entertaining.
Nostalgia hit somewhere between tuning in to watch great teams along with the fanbases that follow them and the noticeable absence of my beloved Miami Heat. There really is no substitute for having the rooting interest of cheering on your team. In my case, the Heat were the indisputable epicenter of the sports universe not too far from the present. Polarity the likes of which I can’t even muster up a comparison or precedent, Miami was as overwhelmingly covered a team as any we’ve ever had. To be fair, sports coverage’s evolution has led to a wide array of outlets and mediums that were just not available in years past, but in the summer of 2010, it was the perfect storm. I remember ESPN having its own subdivision internet page just for the volume of media on this team, the “Heat Index” they called it. The Heat’s resident superstar (Dwyane Wade) and free-agent Chris Bosh announcing their intentions to sign with Miami exactly one day before Lebron James’ infamous “Decision”, I remember it all vividly. I remember the elation, the excitement in anticipation, the introductory party – “… not five, not six, not seven”-. Conversely, I recall the absolute vitriol and venom from anyone outside of the South Florida parameters; the rest of the world hated Miami and its team, but no one could take their eyes off the situation.
The four years that ensued have been well documented in what has become known as The Big Three Era to the sports universe. Now, regarding my moment, I imagine it isn’t a rare one around these parts, I’m assuming I share it with plenty others. The set-up is quite easy; Miami simply could not lose. The sports world seemed to hang on every game, they criticized in defeat and seethed during victory. Everything was exaggerated as I and the rest of “Heat Nation” reveled after the Ws and turned off and stayed away from our devices following the Ls. Indeed, they were the worst of times because they were the best of times.
The Dallas Mavericks defeated that Heat team in their first year together for the 2011 NBA Finals title. The next year, the Heat would go on to the Eastern Conference Finals in a lockout shortened season where they found themselves down 3-2 in the series going into Boston. Lebron would go out of his fucking mind with 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 reputation-shaking performance that tied up the series and allowed the Heat to win the East. The Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder went by the way of 4-1 and the King was crowned. Fast-forward to next year, a Ray Allen acquisition, a 66-win season, and the pressure of a championship repeat for some ill-assigned validation. We all know where this is going…
NBA Finals 2013. Game 6. The damn San Antonio Spurs were the bane of my existence. Lebron lost his headband and that fucking hairline was exposed for the world to see, he didn’t even care. I’m in the family room of my parents’ house watching the game with them, along with my sister, her boyfriend, and my girlfriend (at the time) while our 4-year-old son slept in the room. With 28.2 seconds left, the Heat fouled that no-good, son-of-a-bitch, Argentinian lefty with a hair cul-de-sac. I will never, for as long as I live, forget that exact moment. The yellow ropes outlined the American Airlines Arena court to prepare for the Larry O’Brien trophy being handed to San Antonio. The sick feeling and heartbreak in my family room as everyone stood quietly, we couldn’t be seated. My girlfriend looks at me and asks: “We lost, didn’t we?”. I look back at her nearly teary-eyed and responded: “yeah, that’s it; season’s over”. The Spurs led 94-89 after Manu Ginobili missed the first of two free-throws and the Heat inbounded the ball. A missed three by Lebron resulted in a wild sequence of ricochets with Wade twice tapping the ball before it landed at the hands of Mike Miller. Miller passes back to Lebron for a made three. Ok, wait just a goddamn minute. There’s life. It was 94-92 as the Heat once again fouled, this time, a young superstar-in-the-making by the name of Kawhi Leonard. Once again, they missed the first of two free-throws. So this is it, 19.4 seconds left and a 95-92 lead with no timeouts left. Lebron eventually takes the three-point attempt from the wing and it bangs off the rim, a leaping Bosh rises above Ginobili and Danny Green for the rebound, looks back to find a back-pedaling Ray Allen headed for the line down the right baseline. The shot goes up… BANG!
OH. MY. GOD. GREATEST. FUCKING. MOMENT. OF. MY. ENTIRE. SPORTS. LIFE. BAR. NONE.
Holy shit! How to properly express and attempt to put into words that which is so overwhelming? The screams, the cheers, the leaps, the making of the babies. And that was just at my house. The “White Hot” crowd in total bedlam and the instant realization that there were 5.2 seconds left and this game was merely tied. As we all know, Tony Parker would miss the shot at the end of regulation, Miami wins Game 6 in OT, and subsequently Game 7 for the championship.
I am now 29 years old. As unlikely as it seems, I might very well live long enough to witness another one of my favorite teams visit four straight finals or dominate their respective sport for a period of time. However, I am completely certain that I will never again experience what those four years of Miami Heat basketball provided. It was so much bigger than the games. They were just so good, so interesting, so polarizing, so Miami. Understand this, I love the Heat. But gun to my head, I’d have to pick basketball as my third favorite sport following baseball and football. Having said that, I know no other team or time will supply me with what I had and what I felt for that period. And that shot. I may have peaked early, but it was just so improbable and historical, it will damn sure be tough to beat as my best sports memory.
The Lemon Drop is a weekly segment entertaining whatever the hell comes to the mind of Enrique Sierra, Jr. (Hipster Rick). Simply a sports lover who is not happy that his better days as a fan are behind him. Please click back next Wednesday for more and feel free to comment or engage us through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.