- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The booing and heckling from capacity crowds all over the country is like music to Dwyane Wade’s ears.

The Miami Heat became villains to many when LeBron James made his nationally televised decision to leave Cleveland and join superstars Wade and Chris Bosh last summer. The choice, and the showy way it went down, didn’t sit well with a lot of NBA fans and they have made their feelings known whenever the Heat have hit the road.

Miami has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, but it hasn’t come with national adoration. Miami doesn’t often receive the cheers teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics get when they are on the road. The Heat lead the league in road attendance, drawing an average of 19,289 fans in 29 games, but Wade hears mostly boos.

“Well, they’re cheering for us, it just sounds a little different,” he joked. “Sometimes, it might start with a “B,” but to us, it’s cheering. It’s respect.”

James‘ run-in with a heckler in Detroit last Friday went beyond the norm, and was the latest example of the general dislike NBA fans have shown the Heat this season. James told a fan to stop talking about his family. A fan who says he was seated near the heckler says James was being taunted early in the game.

James, who has joked that the Heat refer to themselves as the “Heatles” after the Beatles for attracting big crowds on the road, said something to that fan while the Heat were shooting free throws.

“Guys get out of control at times,” James said after the game. “I understand they are very passionate, but you need to know where to draw the line. We’re all human. I don’t care if you say anything about the game of basketball, or something to me, just don’t be disrespectful.”

Whether the trigger is merely Miami’s success, James‘ choice or the swagger the Heat have displayed along the way, Miami’s players say the animosity they draw from opposing fans is uncommon.

“We’ve experienced some times here from the crowd,” Bosh said. “Pretty much, it’s at every arena that we play at. Guys are extra motivated, fans are extra motivated _ they either talk crap or cheer a little louder.”

Dealing with hecklers is a part of life in the NBA, of course. Boston and Philadelphia were mentioned by players as particularly challenging venues for crowd interaction.

“Boston is one of the hardest places to play, but it’s one of the funnest places to play because that energy, going on the road, it’s a different feel,” Milwaukee Bucks forward Jon Brockman said. “Sometimes, you can flip that negative energy around and use it in your favor.”

Veteran players generally handle heckling well.

“There’s so many games, there’s so many different situations, you can’t worry about things that are out of your control,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “You just have to worry about the job that you need to do because if you’re not prepared at this level, you’ll have difficult nights.”

The crowds don’t seem to bother Miami __ as of Monday, the Heat have a 19-10 road record this season, the league’s second-highest road win total.

“We embrace it,” Wade said. “We play better on the road. We feel we’re a better road team.”

Wade said he’s heard a great deal of trash talk over his career and believes that sometimes, confronting a fan is necessary.

“Sometimes, you might get fed up, or you might look at them a certain way, or you might engage into conversation because, as a man, it’s challenging your manhood,” he said. “You try to be bigger than that, but every once in a while, you say something.

“It’s unfortunate that I think the fans of the game forget that we’re human as well, and we’re not coming out saying anything to them, we’re coming out trying to play the game of basketball and entertain. That’s all we’re doing.”

Basketball, more than most sports, puts fans close to the action. Sometimes that leads to unforgettable situations like Reggie Miller scoring 25 fourth-quarter points while jawing with Spike Lee during the 1994 playoff game between the Pacers and the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

It also gives fans a chance to test limits.

“A lot of the things that are said that are personal, the person wouldn’t say it in your face,” Wade said. “They only say it because they’re guarded by these chairs, and they know we’re not crazy and we’re not going to do anything to them.”

___

AP Sports Writer Colin Fly contributed to this report.

(This version corrects Dwyane Wade’s name in 1st paragraph, adds statistics in third paragraph.)

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide