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Welcome to Miami Thrice.
There are a number of nicknames that are being used to illustrate the union of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Some complimentary, some not. Yet there are a number of adjectives that can also describe the newly-formed trio. ‘Unpredecented’ is, perhaps, the most appropriate one to label an alliance that has shaken the foundation of the NBA at its core. Never before has the best player in the league during his time, whether it’s James right now or Michael Jordan back then (this group is close), united with talents like Wade and Bosh in the prime of their careers. It’s unheard of. Yes, there have been “Big Threes” that have been talented to varying degrees, but this triumvirate is in rarified air. And the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred yesterday was located in Miami and the tremors are emitting to Orlando.
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In one felt swoop, the Miami Heat have transformed themselves from being a playoff team to a title contender — regardless of the seven players that will be needed to fill out the roster (Mike Miller appears to be accounted for, alongside Mario Chalmers). Likewise, after three years of reigning at the top of the Southeast Division with no legitimate challengers to dethrone them, the Orlando Magic have to deal with the Heat. The irony is that Miami was in the same boat from 2005 to 2007, but didn’t have a challenge until the last year when the Washington Wizards finished three games behind them in the division. Just like the Magic this year with the Atlanta Hawks.
It’s been said elsewhere but even though the rivalry between Orlando and Miami exists, given that they’re in the same state, same division, and all that, the rivalry hasn’t seen many fireworks over the years. The playoff duel in 1997 is one to remember, and when Shaquille O’Neal joined the Heat in 2005, that stoked the fires of the rivalry a little bit. Sure, there’s some animosity between both franchises when head coach Stan Van Gundy chose to coach the Magic in 2007 and president Pat Riley demanded, and received, compensation to allow the transaction to go through, which strained the relationships of the two teams. Can’t forget the storyline getting set up in the first place after Riley “replaced” Van Gundy in 2006, ultimately leading Miami to their first and only championship. Of course, there’s the humorous history of players having played for both franchises at some point in their careers. A list that includes Ike Austin, Rony Seikaly, and others. The point is, there’s always been skirmishes between Orlando and Miami. That’s it.
The Magic and the Heat are elite teams. Together. Never before have Orlando and Miami competed for championships at the same time … until now. Rest assured, it’s going to be a bloodbath. A slugfest. A war. Aside from the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic and the Heat have the makings of being one of the most intense rivalries not only in the NBA but in sports in general. All of the elements are there and in a way, Magic fans should enjoy watching the drama unfold. ‘Beat the Heat’ becomes a relevant chant again, for instance. Miami has always been Orlando’s natural rival but it truly means something now. These are two teams vying for a title and three of the top five players in the league are going to be the actors in a script that everyone is dying to read.
So what does the Heat acquiring James, Wade, and Bosh mean to the Magic?