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Miami Heat small forward LeBron James, center, and shooting guard Dwyane Wade joke with power forward Udonis Haslem.
Miami likes flashy winners, and a look at any of the recent championship teams from South Florida proves that point. The Heat's Big Three were a lightning rod even before they played a game together, and no one doubts the swagger of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh now.
The Miami Hurricanes football title teams of the 1980s invented swagger, so much so that the NCAA had to crack down on unsportsmanlike conduct in the Canes' wake. The 1997 Florida Marlins invented the modern trend of buying a World Series title with high-priced free agents (something the New York Yankees would later perfect).
The 2003 Marlins did not buy their title, but stole it from multiple would-be kings thanks to the brash youth of Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera. The 2006 Heat were almost a prototype for the current version, as Pat Riley surrounded a dynamic duo of Wade and Shaquille O'Neal with savvy veterans who completed the championship puzzle.
But none of those teams can match the current Heat in terms of star-power, hate-ability (outside of South Florida) and pure, raw talent. South Floridians enjoy rooting for the sports villain and wearing their team's infamy as a badge of honor.
Now that the Big Three have won their first championship rings together, a community that has defended them from outside criticism for two years gets a chance to bask in the glow too. When the Heat hold their championship parade, they will surely note how the local fans had their backs when the rest of the world was rooting for them to fail.
Miami can be a tough town for sports teams, and South Floridians can wield apathy as a weapon like no other community. Even though the Miami Heat are not affiliated with any of the other pro sports teams in South Florida, their influence on the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, and Florida Panthers cannot be questioned. The Heat's success in building a juggernaut that demands and receives full attention from local fans has their neighbors scrambling to match the feat, even though doing so is practically impossible.
From the Panthers' and Marlins' recent roster overhauls and makeovers to the Dolphins' hope that a risky quarterback prospect will morph into Marino 2.0 and return the franchise to greatness, the Heat's impact is felt in stadiums throughout the community.
Those efforts to match the Heat may not work, but South Floridians will still have their Heat, the other-worldly talented team that succeeded when everyone outside of the city wanted them to fail. They wouldn't have it any other way.