For the culture.
It’s a phrase commonly used today, especially in the basketball circle (as well as in our SLAM Philippines circle). Establishing a “culture” is probably something that has been around for ages, but it’s certainly something that has been emphasized and amplified more frequently in the recent years.
In the NBA, there are a couple of teams that stand out. The Lakers have their sense of always being in the spotlight. The Warriors have that air of being laid back.
The New York Knicks…
But in the world of the NBA, where having an identity to establish these cultures is quite important, it might just be the Miami Heat who have done the best job of building it up to a point where it keeps resulting in success.
The Heat were beat by the time the final buzzer sounded at the end of Game 6 in the Finals. Not only in the sense of them being on the wrong side of the 103-96 final score and the 4-2 result of series. They just seemed exhausted.
Anyone would be drained after spending 96 full days in the NBA bubble. Day in, day out, the Heat stayed focused on their main objective of making it as far as they could go (and maybe sell a cup of coffee here and there).
And there they were, standing as one of the two last remaining teams after having withstood everything this bubble could throw at them.
They weren’t supposed to make it this far. They weren’t even supposed to make it out of Conference Semi-Finals. Maybe the Heat were supposed to be a title contenders… in a few years, but certainly not right now.
Jimmy Butler was supposed to be a nuisance to this young squad.
Goran Dragic was just supposed to be the seasoned vet whose role was to come off the bench and provide wisdom to the youngsters.
Tyler Herro was a cool name, but it would probably take another year for him to be a consistant contributor.
Two-time MVP and DPOY Giannis was supposed to run over them. Jayson Tatum and the Celtics were supposed to be too good and too young for them. Injuries hit the Heat and LeBron and the Lakers were supposed to sweep them with ease.
That’s the thing with Miami though. They see your limitations. From there, they’ll work their asses off until they can break through those limitations and make you eat your words.
They locked it down defensively against the Bucks. Bam Adebayo stuffed Tatum at the rim and out of the Playoffs. It took the Lakers six games to finally eliminate the hobbled Heat.
Herro snarled his way through the Playoffs to prove that he was ready to be a star now.
Dragic claimed the starting spot in the bubble and led the Heat in scoring.
Butler was the leader this team needed from the beginning, with those legendary 3AM practices, to the end, with his legendary performances in the Finals matched up arguably the best player in the world.
Working tirelessly to prove everyone wrong, that’s the #HeatCulture.
The Miami Heat are among the younger franchises in the league. They aren’t supposed to have been able to establish themselves as regular title contenders yet. Look at where the Pelicans (then Hornets) and Timberwolves (sadly) are, considering these teams joined the league in consecutive years.
The Magic have had several Finals runs and the Raptors have a recent title to boast, but no other modern era expansion team has been able to succeed at the level that the Heat have experienced over an extended period of time.
The Heat are just in it to win it.
To do that, they know they had to build a winning culture. A culture of maintaining the highest level of hustling, conditioning, and putting it all out on the hardwood. It is not something that is plainly spoken of; they’ve put it on display game in and game out, especially during these past few months.
Look at Udonis Haslem, the ultimate #HeatCulture ambassador.
Look at Jimmy Butler.
The culture has worked.
Six Finals appearances.
Ninth best all-time record in the regular season.
Secon best all-time record in the post season.
Aside from the Lakers, they are the only team in the past two decades to have made it to the finals in at least three separate occasions featuring a significantly different core group of players.
From The Flash-Superman to the Heatles to Butler and the Gang (as individually talented as they are), being able to make it to the final stage with that level of change in personnel from squad to squad just shows you what this franchise is about.
They may not have won it all this time, but everyone should be able to agree that they poured out everything they had on the floor trying.
This trip to the Finals might have resulted in a loss, but everyone can already expect that they will be coming back soon. It might not be the same crew (though we’d all love to this gang bring it all back), but you can be sure that the Heat will make it happen somehow.
So if you’re a Heat fan, don’t feel so bad about falling short this year. The Heat are going to bleed and sweat, through practice sessions to the each and every game, to find their way back.
You know they will. You know they’ll give it their all trying.
For the #HeatCulture.