I have tried three times to start this column about the Miami Heat uncorking a 27-game winning streak that seems even more incredible when you think about it for a second. Each time, I make it about this far into the page before I completely run out of steam, adjectives, jokes or a combination of the three.
I guess the first thing to accept is this remarkable fact: The Heat were able to run off 27 straight victories in the modern NBA. Their escape against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when they were down nearly 30 points halfway through the third quarter, was one of the most incredible performances I have ever seen by a team, period. More impressively, save for that dramatic comeback and a few other dodged bullets against the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic, they pretty much eviscerated every opponent on their schedule.
Most of the games they played between win number one (100-85 over the Toronto Raptors) and win number 27 (108-94 over the Magic) weren’t close at all. Just take a look at their schedule on ESPN; the red “Loss” marks are few and far between on the whole, but then they disappear altogether for a period of a month and a half. That’s borderline impossible, especially for a team sport as fickle as basketball. To be blunt, they are undoubtedly the best team in the NBA right now, complete with the best player alive.
That brings us to LeBron James, who is turning in a regular season for the ages. On the season, he is putting up 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists PER GAME, while shooting 56 percent from the field. This is probably the closest any human being has come to averaging a triple-double since Oscar Robertson did it 50 years ago.
On top of the numbers, here are some intangibles that can’t be measured: He can play and defend all five positions on the floor, he produces at least two highlights every game that make the top 10 plays on SportsCenter and when the game is on the line, more often that not he comes through in the clutch. When the game is on the line, you WANT the ball in LeBron’s hands…and that is a statement I never thought I would able to make with a straight face.
Basketball as a sport has so many variables and moving parts. There is the schedule (Is a team on an extended road trip? The back end of a back-to-back? A long series of winnable home games?), the players themselves (Are some players surging? Are others slumping?), the opponents (Are they riding a hot streak? Are they mired in a slump?), the crowd (Is the team popular? Can the crowd swing the outcome?), the officiating (How loose are the whistles going to be?), the venue (How big is the stage? Is the team home or away?)…the list goes on and on.
The fact is that the NBA has the best players in the world, and the difference between victory and defeat often rests on razor-sharp margins. For any team to beat the randomness of some of the aforementioned variables and chug through 27 straight victories is so unlikely as to be nearly impossible. It speaks volumes that Jerry West, one of the players on that legendary Lakers team that won 33 straight games in 1972 (the only streak to surpass the one we just witnessed), gave this Miami Heat team his blessing and his highest praise. He would know the degree of difficulty in channeling so many moving parts together into a cohesive whole for just one game, let alone 27.
On the whole, however, this tells us nothing new about the Miami Heat. The Heat are defending champions for good reason: They have the best player in the world, two of the most overqualified supporting players in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and an array of shooters who can go supernova on any given day. We knew before the season that they would be strong contenders for repeating as NBA champions.
This streak just shows that they already have the mojo needed to pull it off.
Vignesh Venkataraman has yet to get over his celebrity crush on LeBron. Help him cope at viggy “at” stanford.edu.