The asterisk deserves an asterisk.
Because Pat Riley deserves better.
Because to lose candor, spontaneity, passion is to lose the essence of conversations and interviews with the Miami Heat president.
So after addressing any and all questions during Friday’s postseason state-of-the-franchise media session during a Zoom videoconference, Riley moved on to what might come next, with the NBA seemingly putting aside the notion of an offseason.
What he awoke to over the weekend were headlines such as:
“Pat Riley on Lakers’ NBA Finals win over Heat: ‘There will be always be that asterisk’ “ — Yahoo Sports.
“Pat Riley: Lakers’ Title Win Will Always Have Asterisk Due to Heat’s Injuries” — Bleacher Report.
“ ‘Lakers’ championship will have an asterisk’: Pat Riley takes dig at LeBron James and Co. after historic Bubble title” — The Score.
The thing is, Riley said nothing of the sort, in no way, shape or form denigrating what LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Frank Vogel, Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers accomplished in defeating his team in six games in the NBA Finals.
Yes, he did say “asterisk.” The search engines took over from there. Context be damned.
The thing is, when Riley wants to make a point, wants to hammer it home, the clarity is undeniable.
When Alonzo Mourning swung on the Knicks’ Larry Johnson in the 1998 playoffs, Riley did not mince words to Mourning about costing his team the series.
When Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge in 2013 challenged the officiating of then-Heat forward LeBron James, Riley, through a team-issued release, told Ainge to “shut the f — up.”
And in the wake of James leaving the Heat in free agency in 2014, Riley noted a year later of no longer having to deal with “smiling faces with hidden agendas.”
With pointed Pat there is little subterfuge, for better or worse.
Then circle back to Friday, when he noted of the Heat’s loss earlier this month to the Lakers in the Finals, “there’s always going to be an asterisk, that caveat.”
Taken by themselves, those nine words could be taken as everything from a slight of the Lakers’ accomplishment to an excuse for the injuries that sidelined Heat leading men Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic during the Finals.
But those words weren’t offered alone. They were offered as part of a 400-plus-word comment in response to a question about whether he had thought back to what might have been different had Adebayo and Dragic not been injured.
The gist, for the seemingly short-attention span plurality that can’t be bothered by all 400-plus words:
“Yes, I’d like to see what it would have been like with everybody whole. But we’ll get that shot again. I’m just so proud of what our guys did. I’ll tell you another thing, the narrative about the end, the Lakers were great, they were a great team. They have the greatest player in the game today in LeBron and Anthony Davis, and a cast of real veteran players who knew what to do in those moments. So they beat us fair and square. They were the best team. But there’s always going to be an asterisk, that caveat. If we had Bam and Goran, Goran was our leading scorer in the playoffs, at 100 percent, it could have gone to seven games or whatever.”
Note, how Riley never said the Heat would have won the series, even if whole. And note that well before getting to “asterisk” there was praise for the Lakers as “a great team,” as well as for James, Davis and the Lakers’ veterans.
And, still, Riley still felt compelled to follow up in a statement passed along by the team’s PR wing that read, “The asterisk is next to the Heat’s name, not the Lakers. Their title is legitimate. Our loss has an asterisk (next) to it. The Lakers were the better team. Period.”
Now scroll back up to the aforementioned headlines from Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, The Score.
What Riley offered Friday was the type of candor, spontaneity, passion that has become lost in today’s sanitized media sessions (unless, of course, you prefer the weekly Belichick). There was no hiding behind emojis. And he certainly didn’t tell anyone on the Lakers to STFU (although, masked up in Disney’s bubble, we may never truly know).
And while he did include an asterisk, it simply was not headline news.
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