I recently got into a discussion with my friend Tom about the Miami Heat. When it comes down to it, basketball fans are remarkably divided on this issue. You can't really find anyone who is neutral in regards to this team, either you love them or you hate them. They have become to basketball what the Yankees are to baseball, giving everyone who appreciates the sport a common enemy.
But even if you hate them, I don't think you can argue that they have had an incredibly positive impact on basketball. When is the last time anyone can remember a basketball season that people cared this much about? Certainly not since Jordan, and I would argue that this season has garnered more interest than that. Hell, ESPN even has an entire section of their website dedicated to following this team. Say what you want about them, there has not been a basketball season anywhere near this entertaining since I began following basketball.
Many people who will complain about the Heat will first mention that the joining of Bosh, Wade, and LeBron is bad for competition in basketball. If those three join up, then surely others will follow in suit, and the competitive nature of basketball will disappear as we know it. Yet this is not the first time that this has happened. No one caused a fuss when KG, Pierce and Ray Allen teamed up, regardless of the fact that Ray Allen was the league's best shooter and KG one of the league's best players at the time. No one clamored when Shaq and Kobe were doing their thing, nor when the Showtime Lakers were blazing through the NBA. And that's because these times of teams are great for basketball.
I agree that this is the first time that a joining of these stars has occurred on this level - LeBron and D-Wade are arguably the league's two best players - but players joining forces is not a bad thing for competition. If anything, it causes the other teams to step up their game. The Bulls failed to bring in a heavy hitter at SG around the trade deadline, figuring that their young nucleus was good enough and that they would only improve in the future. Yet as they sit behind 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, they're realizing that just having a good nucleus is not good enough anymore - they needed to make that move for a SG. You don't think they're sitting there thinking, "Man, if only we'd made a harder push for Arron Afflalo, if only we had a better shooter on offense or better perimeter defender?" If anything, the level of competition in the NBA has increased because the bar has now been set that much higher.
Some are annoyed by the fanfare that surrounds this team - most notably the Miami Heat "Welcome Party" that took place not days after LeBron's signing - or the way that they are so constantly followed by the media. I would agree that the welcome party was a bit much and that at times they've acted like champions despite having one ring between the Three of them, but they're playing like champions right now, and if teams don't like the way they're acting, its their job to put them into their place - which, by the way, hasn't exactly happened yet.
Say what you want, but this team is entertaining. They've embraced the role of the villain, and are playing the role to a tee. They're blazing through the playoffs with only a scarce bit of difficulty, and (assuming they can take one of the next three) in the finals they will face either the young up and coming Thunder (led by the humble Kevin Durant) or the veteran Mavs (led by Dirk Nowitzki, who no one has anything bad to say about). So the finals could be a traditional battle of good against evil. I'm putting my money on evil. Who you got?