Forty-one years ago the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers completed a record that still stands today. Jerry West, Pat Riley, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Flynn Robinson, Jim Cleamons and company won thirty-three consecutive contests. As put by Gail Goodrich himself, “If you look at the 33, very few games were we even challenged. Very few games were close. We had a dominant team.”
Forty-one years later the historic Lakers team received the most media attention they had in decades as they witnessed another momentous run. This time it was the Miami Heat’s turn. The streak started on Super Bowl Sunday as the Heat handed Toronto a beating on Canadian terrain.
The streak was unlike that of the ’71-’72 Lakers. That Lakers team was characterized by victory margins as large as forty points. This Heat team seemed to toy with their opponents. Branded as the Comeback Kings, the Miami Heat easily erased seven double-digit deficits along with eleven more fourth quarter deficits. Sorry Miami haters—“easily” is not a stretch. It seemed as if the Heat could effortlessly turn up at any given moment as was seen nationwide when they came back from a third quarter, twenty-seven point deficit against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a matter of eighteen minutes. That victory was their twenty-fourth.
One game earlier the Heat erased another deficit as they came back from thirteen down to beat the Boston Celtics. This game, in which we witnessed Hoya Jeff Green drop an dazing 43 in a losing effort, marked the first time the Heat had beat the Celtics in Boston since the original Big Three tandem of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen was fashioned. However, Ray Allen returned to Boston with his new team, earning a victory as King James nailed a clutch game-winning jumper with seconds to go. A win in Boston for the first time in eleven attempts was not the only history being made that day. The win also marked the Heat’s surpassing of the 22-game win streak held by the 2007-08 Houston Rockets.
Four games later the Heat win streak would be snapped at 27 in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. As the initial disappointment subsided, LeBron James expressed, “We had a moment, just very fortunate, very humbling and blessed to be part of this team and be part of a streak like that. It’s one of the best that this league has ever seen. We recognized that and rightfully so.”
The Heat now rightfully hold the second longest win streak in history, six short of the legendary ‘71-‘72 Lakers. An impressive run at the least, the Miami Heat have definitely made a statement. As the streak has come to an end, it would be hard for any true basketball fan to honestly deny two assertions—one, that the Heat is the best team in the league and two, that Lebron James is the best player.
Save me the ring argument. As put by Bulls center Nazr Mohammed, “He’s one of the best players in this league, if not the best. It’s arguable depending on the position you like. But 6-foot-8, strong, athletic, he’s knocking down shots, he can pass the ball. If you drew up a prototypical player that any coach would want, he would be it.”
– Marcus Hughes, Sports Staff Writer