In the game of public perception, when you’re the Miami Heat, even when you win, you seem to lose.
Generally, when a team wins a series, the word “fallout” isn’t used.
The exception is when you play for the most polarizing team in recent history.
After the Heat’s impressive comeback performance against the Celtics to take game five and seal the series, one of the story lines that received the most attention had little to do with the game itself.
Many pundits chose not to focus on Dwyane Wade dominating the first half with 23 crucial points or LeBron James closing out yet another game by making some of the most pressure-packed three-pointers of his career.
Instead, many focused on the celebration. Yes, the celebration.
Or, as many in the national media have labeled it, the “over-celebrating.”
The main criticism was directed at the Heat for enjoying the win just a little too much.
The feeling seemed to be that Miami players, specifically James, should have had more composure.
"Won with more class."
Or, "acted like they've been there before."
You know the clichés.
The irony is, of course, that the hype going into the series, which was largely created by the same national media outlets, kept emphasizing the importance of the Miami-Boston rematch.
In fact, if you check the tape and reread the previews, you’ll find many of the same analysts calling it the biggest second round matchup in recent history.
Because it was.
Boston stood as Miami's toughest obstacle. The same team that sent Wade and James packing last year. The same team that had been to the Finals in two of the last three years.
There was genuine bad blood. Palpable animosity between the two sides.
As LeBron revealed in the post-game press conference, this Celtics team was the main reason he decided to come to Miami in the first place. Indirectly, it was part of the reason he has faced so much backlash all season.
And now, after playing under a microscope since October, after having his priorities, toughness, character continually questioned, and responding with ten straight points to close out the biggest game of his career thus far, he was getting criticized for enjoying the moment.
For releasing some of the pent up emotion that he has been quietly harboring all that time.
And what exactly was so over-the-top about the celebration, anyway? James kneeling down for a few seconds? Wade hugging James and Juwan Howard?
Champagne wasn’t exactly overflowing in the locker room.
On the flipside, there was little made of Boston’s Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo storming off the court seconds after the final buzzer sounded, ala the ’91 Detroit Pistons.
Certainly not the backlash James received when, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, walked off the court after losing game six of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals without shaking hands or addressing the media afterwards. That particular walk-off was dissected by the media for days.
Bit of a double standard we have here, no?
Don’t expect much to change in the coming weeks, considering the Heat will now face a Chicago team that features media darling Derrick Rose.
For the Heat, little will change.
As James knows all too well, the only way to change his career narrative is through success. The kind of success that is measured in championship rings, nothing less.
And even then, based on what we've seen thus far, one ring might not be enough to satiate the appetite of ravenous analysts.
Only time will tell.