History tells the Miami Heat how it doesn't happen, how a bid for a third consecutive championship can be short-circuited.
A fractured left leg for George Mikan in 1951 cost the Minneapolis Lakers the opportunity to become the first NBA team to win three consecutive championships. Later, Byron Scott and Magic Johnson would go down in the 1989 Finals as the Los Angeles Lakers' initial three-peat bid came up short, and the Houston Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon would be physically unable to finish off a third consecutive title run in 1996.
The next generation.
For the two-time champion "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons, Michael Jordan got in the way in 1991, just as Dirk Nowitzki stopped the Lakers' championship run at two in 2011.
Yes, Phil Jackson pulled off the championship triple-play twice with the Bulls and once with the Lakers, but said tedium was a constant concern. Steve Kerr, who experienced that second Bulls three-peat as a reserve guard for Jackson and now serves as a Turner analyst, said the fatigue factor cannot be understated.
"The energy that's required to win a championship, I mean this would be the fourth year in a row that they would have gotten to the NBA Finals," he said of the Heat, who are trying to be the sixth team in NBA history to win a third consecutive title. "It's incredible the toll that it takes, emotionally and physically, year after year, to get all the way to the Finals, to play deep into June. .. . And I think Miami is going to face some huge obstacles this year, emotionally and just fatigue-wise."
Erik Spoelstra's antidote is to continually stress each season as its own journey, just as he did last season.
"We understand why this team has been put together and what we're playing for, and it's bigger than a motto," the Heat coach ironically said of three-peat talk, considering his boss, Heat President Pat Riley, trademarked the phrase "Three-peat" while coach of the Lakers. "It's bigger than a mantra. There'll be some things we focus on, of trying to reinvent, redefine, continuing to evolve. If we don't and if we feel that we know how to win this year, we don't. That was last year."
Guard Dwyane Wade said the championship challenge, no matter what came before, remains basketball's ultimate challenge.
"No season is easy, whether you're trying to three-peat, back-to-back, you're trying to win a championship. No season is easy," he said. "There's going to be challenges throughout. There's going to be time when it looks great, there's going to be times where it doesn't look as great for you."
Forward LeBron James long has stressed the significance of creating his own legacy.
"I believe every team's journey is different," he said of the push for a third consecutive championship. "So I'm not going to put ourselves in a class with a Bulls team or a Celtics team or even a Lakers team or some of the teams that weren't able to do it. We are on our own path."
To James, this Heat team is special, whether it comes with additional championship confirmation this season or not.
"We're going to leave our legacy no matter what."
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