Hail the victors, hail the Miami Heat who captured their second NBA title in as many years Thursday night by outlasting formidable Finals foe San Antonio Spurs in G7 (95-88) to take the best-of-seven series (4-3) and close out one memorable 2013 post-season.
They'll be talking about this one for years.
And to the victor go the spoils, including the hardware, endorsements and any other booty that's commensurate with winning an NBA championship.
With parades & victory champagne still flowing freely, Miami's best reward for besting the Spurs might just be having earned the right to be called great, something Heat owner Micky Arison and anyone else remaining in fold from 2010 have been striving for, predicting and unabashedly proclaiming for over three years now.
Heat's victory is validation of the master-plan implemented by GM Pat Riley that brought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach specifically to hoist hardware.
Get to 3 straight Finals, win back-to-backs and you qualify as great. No argument there.
But some, mostly in the captured media, have gone so far as to declare this Miami squad one of the NBA's greatest teams ever. A premature postulation, to be sure, and one that probably won't play in Peoria, not yet, anyway.
Getting schooled by Dallas in their first big test (11F 2-4), giving-up G1 to upstart OKC in last season's finale before getting serious (12F 4-1), and then "Lady Luck gave ('em a helping hand) (H. Kingsley)" in critical G6 of these just completed Finals (4-3 Spurs), all together paint picture of a team still looking for a doorway into Hall of Greatest Teams.
In football terms, Spurs had the ball on Miami's five with seconds to play in pivotal G6, ready to punch it in and proceeded to fumble it away, Heat recovering and running it back for game-winning score. And this is exactly what champions do, they limit their own mistakes and pounce on their opponents, turning straw into gold.
But there's a melancholy mood in the air after NBA Decision 13, not because the Finals were anything less than great entertainment or because neutral fans hate on the Heat.
What's not to like? They came on loud & cocky in 2010 after Arison landed LeBron & Chris, but have since learned to conduct themselves with professionalism, a certain flair and have clearly found the winning way, all making Miami a real asset to the game.
Slightly sad because fans hate to see competitors let that brass ring slip through their fingers. Like Buffalo in SB25 (NYG 20-19), Mickelson in a US Open or the Cubs in 03, it's a damn shame.
Individually, James, Wade, and yes, Spoelstra and Ray Allen too, have secured their legacies. As for Bosh, if I wanted to build a title contender I'd sign Chris in a heartbeat, but CB has gotta' work consistency into his skill-set if he wants to remain "big."
When you talk team legacy, and you put media spin & Nike sell aside, these Heat don't even crack top-ten all-time.
Are Heat a great team? "You beeeeet ("Chief" / Cuckoo's Nest)." Skillful, tenacious, "resilient (Wade)," one might even say, plucky. When things looked bleak they hung-tough and took down a well-decorated San Antonio squad. That hardware shines.
But in the NBA annals there are more great teams than you can shake a stick at.
A third championship for this Miami bunch puts 'em in top-ten discussion. If it takes form of a three-peat (14), so much the better.
And from the looks of it, there ain't a whole lot standing between the Heat and another one of those O'Briens. Lakers, Spurs (not out, but no longer in), OKC, Knicks, Bulls, Pacers and half-dozen other contenders all have sizable question marks after their names.
Keep in mind, that that same lack of 'quality in competition' that may pave the way for another title in MIA is exactly what can color a legacy when debating greatest all-time.
Big question in South Beach: How long does Wade hold up his end? It's a big end. Like Kobe, Nash, Pierce, Garnett, Parker, Duncan & Dirk, Dwyane is showing the wear & tear on one who has survived & thrived the NBA Wars over a decade's time.
Their claim to greatness secured, the Heat's proper placement along the pantheon of basketball dynasties is a question that's still being answered.
Nothing But Net