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Heat go from being NBA champs to potential future without Big Three

The 2014 NBA Finals would make history in one way or another for the Miami Heat. Either the Heat would secure a three-peat over the San Antonio Spurs, or their fourth straight NBA Finals might well be the last of the Big Three era. Given how Miami not only lost its title, but did so after its third straight blowout loss to San Antonio by 104-87 in Game 5, it seems likely the Heat will lose much more than their throne.

James, Heat officially dethroned in Game 5
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The second the final buzzer sounded, the questions began over LeBron James' future. With the option to opt out this summer, and with the clarity that the current core behind him needs to be altered somehow, the Heat now have to make some big moves. Do they involve letting Chris Bosh go, letting the aging, struggling Dwayne Wade go, finding a way to make them both take pay cuts, form a Big Four or something else with Carmelo Anthony, or all of the above?

If Miami doesn't do at least half these things, James' future with the Heat may be in question. If there is nowhere to go but down for the rest of the Heat, and if there isn't a way to get James more substantial help -- like the Cleveland Cavaliers failed at for so many years before he left -- then there might be a window of opportunity for other suitors.

Those suitors still have to consider that James is 2-3 in the NBA Finals, and 1-2 against the Spurs. In fact, after the way the Spurs slaughtered the Heat in Games 3, 4 and 5, it is starting to look like Miami's 2013 miracle comeback was really more of a fluke.

Of course, if the Spurs had held on in 2013, they might not have been as motivated to destroy the Heat in 2014, and Miami might have gotten more help last offseason. But as it stands now, the Heat and James really have just one championship that they had any right to win -- and even their five-game win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 changed on a questionable non-call in Game 2.

Is that kind of legacy worth all the hype and future pursuit for James, and does it make the Heat worth keeping together? The next several weeks after these NBA Finals will be consumed by these questions and more.

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