Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why Do We Hate the Miami Heat So Much?

Bosh, Wade, and James
Miami's "Big Three"
A popular theory Miami Heat fans propose about why their team is among the most hated franchises in professional sports is that great talent and success often breed petty jealousy and contempt among the less talented and less successful.

While there may be some elements of truth to this notion, especially as it relates to LeBron James, there is just as much evidence against it.

Consider that the history of sports is rife with athletes we loved precisely because of their unexplainable near supernatural ability to execute flawlessly and dominate their sport. Every great competitor has some detractors, but masterful athletes like Roger Federer, Jack Nicklaus, Walter Payton, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan are overwhelmingly beloved by fans in their respective sporting arenas. Not so for the Heat.

The Heat's extreme unpopularity among NBA fans is also not due to their "success." After all, there are a dozen teams who have been to the NBA finals more often than Miami, and if winning championships spawned haters around the league, no team would be more despised than the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have won four titles since 1999, and while more than a few NBA fans might say the Spurs team-style of play can be tedious to watch, the team is far more respected than hated.

The real reasons behind the anti-Heat bias among NBA fans are diverse and myriad. To better understand them, let's take a look at something Americans love about sports - the underdog.

- An established older golfer in the twilight of his career shoots three amazing rounds and finds himself in contention for the win on Sunday. We pump our fists wildly when that last putt falls. 
- A young tennis hopeful strings together a handful of wins and finds herself on the sport's biggest stage in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. We cheer for every winner she hits.
A small-town college basketball team with modest talent but giant desire topples a perennial basketball behemoth and makes their way into the NCAA "elite eight." We leap from our seats when that last second three-pointer drops.

In almost any sporting contest that doesn't involve our preferred team or favorite player, we almost always pull for the underdog - but, why is that?

  • Because underdogs often overcome incredible obstacles just to be in contention.
  • Because they earn it. Nothing comes easy for the underdogs.
  • Because underdogs don't expect to win, but if they do, they don't feel entitled to it. 
  • Because we appreciate athletes who perform at the pinnacle of their capacity. 
  • Because it's more rewarding to cheer for less talented players who give their all in a loss, than for naturally gifted players who win with a three-quarter effort. 
  • Because while underdogs work hard, it's their willingness to dig deeper than anyone believed possible that sometimes pushes them across the finish line first. 

Those are many of our motivations for loving the underdogs, but does that explain why some many of us harbor such intense dislike for the Miami Heat?

Sort of. The real reason why so many of us hope the Heat are sent home empty-handed from the NBA Playoffs is because they embody characteristics which are diametrically opposed to the things we love about underdogs.

Heat players don't make us guess how they feel about their own greatness.

The incredible media circus LeBron James, the "chosen one," created to draw attention to his departure from Cleveland was a shameful act of self-promotion that sadly happened at the expense of formerly loyal Cavaliers fans.

And let's not forget LeBron's cocky assurance of multiple championships in Miami.

Dwayne Wade, once a likable superstar, seems to have been bitten by the egomania bug as well, having recently asserted that he and the other NBA players who participate in the 2012 Olympics should be monetarily compensated for their efforts in this summer's international event (because that's within the spirit and integrity of the 2000 year-old games, right?).

As a group, the Heat did not evolve or grow together organically as so many great sports teams have done. There are no long years of inspirational struggle and striving to pull the pieces together. The Heat are more like instant champions - just add money. In Miami, the NBA team wasn't so much built or assembled, as it was special ordered.

The Miami Heat should win it all. And we know that, because they told us so.

Although I am certain they have worked hard to perfect their game, their off-court words and actions leave us feeling not that they have earned a championship, as much as they expect one (or two or three or four). At its core, Miami Heat mentality seems to go beyond an arrogant belief in their own abilities, feeling instead like blatant disregard for the talents of others (just ask the Pacers).

Sadly, what makes the Miami Heat so hatable is not that they win, or even how they win, but rather who they are (or who they portray themselves to be). Contrived, jaded, and entitled.

By July, one team will have bested all others and earned the privilege of hoisting the NBA championship trophy. If that team is the Heat, they will gain few admirers outside of Miami. Basketball fans everywhere will continue to dislike the Heat not for what they've won or for what they have, but for what they lack - humility and heart.


  1. It is hard to learn humility when ESPN is televising your high school basketball games and dubbing you 'King James' before you are old enough to vote (I bet).

  2. No doubt, LeBron hasn't had the best "grounding" throughout his quickly skyrocketing career. My dislike for the Heat goes beyond LeBron to the whole organization. The NY Yankees-style team buying, Pat Riley, the flagrants against the Pacers, and on and on.