Legacy grows for Miami's Big 3


MIAMI -- The walls in and around the locker rooms are already filled with photos of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with trophies and champagne bottles going back years now.

For this trio, another banner is on order, a fourth one for conference champs alongside the four division title banners, dwarfed by the two title banners already there.

Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones, Bill Sharman and John Havlicek. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

James, Wade and Bosh.

These are the names on some of the great dynasties of NBA history. The Heat are there, card-carrying members of the club. They'll be alongside these men in the Hall of Fame. When the NBA honors it's top 75 players of all time in 2022, their names will be there. In 10, 15 or 25 years they'll be honored with documentaries. When they are introduced to give speeches or to open exhibits or to be toasted at banquets, the achievement will be cited with applause.

For all that "not two, not three, not four, not five ..." talk that signified their arrival and simultaneously alienated much of the basketball-loving public four years ago, the Heat have planted their flag. They may have been guilty of hubris, but they were also right.

They have turned into a monster.

Now four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, just the fourth team in history to run that energy-sucking, mentally-devouring, chemistry-battering gantlet. They're a certified, verified, bona fide dynasty whether they bring home a three-peat or not.

This hasn't happened for 27 years, since the Celtics made their fourth straight Finals. Wade was 5 years old. Bosh was 4. James was 3. For them, this is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. For many people in their careers, even for athletes, they never truly know when they're at the peak, usually until it's in the past. For this accomplishment, though -- one the Heat accepted with wide open eyes -- they know their mortality.

"Any time I hear my name or our team in the same breath with legends and great teams and franchises, it's so humbling, man," James said as he advanced to his fifth Finals in the past eight seasons.

"You just feel like while you're in the moment hopefully, while you're playing the game, that you can make an impact enough to where you move on and people will start comparing you to ones that's in the game at the present time."

Whatever circumstances or conspiracy theories anyone wants to whip up, they've now done something that Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal have not done: They will compete in the Finals for a fourth consecutive year.

"We're competing against the Michael Jordan of our era, the Chicago Bulls of our era," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, resigned to the reality. "You have to tip your hats to them."

"We're in the LeBron James era," said Pacers forward David West. "I've thought about it, that maybe we're a little unlucky. You just have that perspective."

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