When history has its say about the 2012-13 Miami Heat, their 27-game winning streak during the season will be mentioned, but not in the same way the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 33-game streak in 1971-72 will be.
This writer chooses to begin this somewhat anti-streak argument with a rhetorical question: how many people even remembered the Houston Rockets‘ 20-game winning streak until the Heat were approaching and passing it?
Who honestly believes that many people remember that the Phoenix Suns had a 17-game win streak in 2006-07? Or that the San Antonio Spurs had a 17-game streak in 1995-96? Or that the Boston Celtics had an 18-game win streak in 1981-82? How about the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak in 2008-09? Or even that the Los Angeles Clippers had a streak of 17 wins in a row this season? Probably not, and that’s because the teams in question didn’t even make it to the NBA Finals during those seasons.
But even when teams win the NBA title, it’s not a guarantee that a great winning streak during that season is going to even be remembered. People talk so much about the Chicago Bulls and their 72 wins during the 1995-96 season, but you don’t hear anything about their 18-game winning streak during that season. Similarly, what people remember about the New York Knicks‘ 1969-70 championship season wasn’t the 18-game winning streak they compiled during the season, but Willis Reed‘s gutsy start in game seven that emotionally lifted the Knicks to victory.
The reasons that the Lakers’ 33-game is so revered among basketball historians, fans, analysts, etc. are simple: they rolled over teams during this streak in a way that hasn’t been equaled, they rolled through the playoffs and won the championship in equally easy fashion.
The Lakers’ streak didn’t have to face the adversity the Heat had to face during the streak when they had several comebacks of 20 or more points. The Lakers’ streak was far less dramatic, and so were the Lakers’ playoff run that year.
With the Heat, the Indiana Pacers and Spurs both took them to the absolute limit in the final two playoff series of the Heat’s title run. Even Heat fans will admit this. Also, the Pacers and Spurs both showed themselves to be on the same level as the Heat during their respective series. Heat fans likely won’t admit that. But when put in comparison to the Lakers’ playoff run to their title in ’71-72, the Heat don’t match it in terms of dominance throughout.
There’s also the various hall-of-fame players that played for the Lakers during that ’71-72 season like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlin, Elgin Baylor (retired during that season) and Gail Goodridge (Basketball Hall of Fame). These men have already had the decades necessary for history to have its complete say. The Heat’s streak will one day have such a hall-of-fame presence in the history books, but the Heat’s championship this season will always be remembered for the very talented team that fought their hearts out to win a championship instead of rolling to one with ease.
Even with the Heat’s title win, their streak won’t have the same historical significance as the Lakers’ streak. It will always be a fun fact to look back on and a reason to Heat fans for years to come why this team should be ranked with the best ever. But it wasn’t the longest winning streak in NBA history and that alone will make their streak less and less significant as the years go by.