Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) takes a deep breath before attempting a foul shot as the crowd chants "Akron Hates You!" in the second quarter in an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010, in Cleveland. Cavaliers' Mo Williams, left, looks on.
July 9: Welcome to Miami
The Heat staged a rally to celebrate their formation of the Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The players roared, posed and preened as fog machines and pyrotechnics added to the party atmosphere. The crowd in American Airlines Arena ate it up. Almost everyone else found it annoying and presumptuous.
Oct. 26: Dud of a debut
The grand unveiling of Miami's new Big Three was spoiled by Boston's old Big Three. The Heat scored just nine points in the first quarter and lost 88-80. LeBron James scored 31 points, but Dwyane Wade (13 points) and Chris Bosh (eight points) missed 20 of 27 shots.
Nov. 9: They blew it!
In their eighth game of the season, the Heat squandered a 22-point lead and lost to the Utah Jazz in overtime as Paul Millsap scored 46 points. Call it foreshadowing. Miami had trouble holding leads all season, especially in the NBA Finals.
Nov. 22: Wade, three points?
Back after missing a game with a sprained wrist, Dwyane Wade scored three points on 1-of-13 shooting in a 93-77 loss to the Pacers. Aberration? Yes. He scored at least 14 points in every game the rest of the season and averaged 25.5 points on career-high 50 percent shooting.
Nov. 27: Finals preview
When the Heat lost 106-95 in Dallas, no one realized the same teams would meet six months later for the NBA championship. At the time, Miami sure didn't look like a contender. The loss dropped the Heat to 9-8 and also featured The Bump, LeBron's hard shoulder into coach Erik Spoelstra while walking off the court during a timeout. It was widely perceived as a sign of disrespect, though the two seemed to develop a strong relationship as the season progressed.
Dec. 2: Welcome home!
Cleveland fans unleashed their anger and vitriol on LeBron James in his first game there since The Decision. He responded with 38 points and eight assists in a 118-90 rout, sending the Cavaliers into a 1-36 tailspin and launching the Heat to a 12-game winning streak.
Dec. 17: Another Garden party
LeBron James likes putting on a show at Madison Square Garden, and he didn't disappoint in his first game there as a Heat player. With 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, he recorded his 30th career triple-double and lifted the Heat to a 20-8 record.
Dec. 25: Christmas in LA
The much-anticipated matchup between the Heat and Lakers — and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant — was a mismatch. While LeBron finished with a triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and Chris Bosh (24 points, 13 rebounds) also came up big, Kobe had a quiet afternoon (17 points), and the Lakers continued their tradition of losing on Christmas Day. The Heat accepted that gift and a 96-80 victory.
Jan. 12-18: Another skid
Just when the Heat seemed to be finding their groove with a nine-game win streak, they hit the skids. They lost road games to the Clippers, Nuggets and Bulls, then came home and lost to the Hawks. LeBron James missed two of those games and Chris Bosh also missed one (and most of another) with sprained ankles, proving the importance of good health for a top-heavy team.
Feb. 3: LeBron erupts on Orlando
LeBron James' scoring average dipped a bit while sharing the stage (and the ball) with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But he reprised his old Cleveland role as a one-man wrecking crew in a 104-100 win in Orlando, scoring 51 points on 17-of-25 shooting. He had only three other 40-point games all season.
Feb. 13: Can't beat the Celtics
After losing two early-season games to Boston, the Heat insisted things would be different in their third meeting. They weren't. Even with Paul Pierce missing all 10 of his shots, the Celtics pulled away in the third quarter and held off Miami's late charge for an 85-82 win. It snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Heat.
Feb. 24: Bosh shoots bricks
Chris Bosh got off to an awful start for Miami as he struggled to adapt to his new role as No. 3 option, but he had grown more comfortable and confident by the time the Heat came to Chicago for the second time. Which is why his 1-for-18 performance came as such a surprise. One of the worst shooting nights in NBA history was the main culprit in a 93-89 loss that ultimately helped cost Miami the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
March 4: Texas-sized whipping
When the Big Three came together, people envisioned routs like this, but not with Miami on the wrong end. The Spurs humiliated the Heat by surging to a 22-point lead after one quarter and winning 125-95. Eight San Antonio players scored in double figures, compared with four Miami players, as the Spurs improved the league's best record to 51-11. The Heat dropped their third straight game and fell to 43-19.
March 6: CryGate
In a season full of both domination and frustration, the Heat may have hit an emotional low with an 87-86 home loss to the Bulls. A fourth straight defeat and yet another late-game failure carried over to the locker room, where Erik Spoelstra said players shed tears. He was trying to make the point that the Heat cared about their problems; instead it was taken as another sign of emotional instability and weakness. Who cried? Was it LeBron? No one's telling.
March 10: Back on track
With their season and their psyches unraveling, the Heat faced another late-game deficit against the Lakers and the prospect of a six-game losing streak. But instead of gagging down the stretch, Miami made all the big plays in the final minutes and beat the defending champs for the second time. It was a nice confidence boost for the Heat, who went on to finish the regular season on a 15-3 run.
March 14: Revenge on Spurs
Remember the Alamo? The Heat remembered their 30-point loss in San Antonio 10 days earlier and delivered a 30-point beating of their own. The 110-80 win wasn't Miami's most lopsided of the season (there was a 32-point win over the Timberwolves and a 33-point rout of the Grizzlies), but it may have been the most satisfying.
March 19: Give me your best shot
This picture, taken during Miami's home win over the Nuggets, is an iconic image of the Big Three. All power, bravado and domination. The whole season was supposed to be full of moments like this. But there was a lot of futility and frustration, too.
March 27: Big Three, indeed
Each member of the Big Three sacrificed personal stats in order to play together, but occasionally all three put up big numbers on the same night. That was especially true in a 125-119 win over the Rockets, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade each had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
March 29: Happy now, Cleveland?
LeBron's final visit to his old stomping grounds gave the home folks some measure of satisfaction. Despite LeBron's triple-double, the Cavaliers won 102-90 — one of only 19 victories for Cleveland all season, 42 fewer than last year.
April 10: Beating Boston
The Heat overcame a mental hurdle by winning their final regular-season meeting with the Celtics. And they did it in convincing fashion, pulling away in the second half for a 100-77 victory. With the teams seeded to meet in the conference semifinals, Miami proved it could beat its nemesis after three prior losses.
Round 1: Deep-sixing Philly
The Heat, seeded second in the Eastern Conference, started their playoff run with a 4-1 series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Other than a Game 2 rout, all of the games were close. Miami blew a chance to sweep by squandering a six-point lead in the final 95 seconds of Game 4, then closed out the Sixers with a 97-91 win in Game 5.
Conference semifinals: Bye-bye, Boston
The much-anticipated Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Celtics was as feisty and spirited as expected. A physical series took a heavier toll on Boston as point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a dislocated elbow (but continued to play). Eventually, Miami's superior athleticism made the difference in a 4-1 series win. Game 4 was crucial as James, Wade and Bosh combined for 83 points and 35 rebounds in a 98-90 overtime victory in Boston.
Conference semifinals: Emotions run high
Beating the Celtics was clearly cathartic for LeBron James, who fell to Boston in the playoffs as a Cavalier in 2008 and 2010. It was one of the reasons he joined forces with Wade, who also lost to the Celtics in the 2010 playoffs with Miami. So while people criticized the Heat for getting overly emotional about a conference semifinal win, the players saw it as vindication for their free-agent decisions last summer.
Conference finals: Hello, Haslem
After the top-seeded Bulls bullied them in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat got an unexpected boost from Udonis Haslem in Game 2. After missing most of the regular season with a foot injury, the power forward was ineffective in previous playoff action. But he came off the bench and provided 13 points, five rebounds and a physical, scrappy presence to combat Chicago. That helped Miami win Game 2 and completely changed the tenor of the series.
Conference finals: LeBron's show
In a battle between the last two MVP winners, LeBron James got the better of Derrick Rose. James was dominant in the series, averaging 27.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists while hitting a series of big shots in late-game situations. Defensively, he also helped shut down Rose in the fourth quarter of the final four games, all Miami wins.
When did the championship get away from the Heat? In the final seven minutes of Game 2 in the NBA Finals, when Miami blew a 15-point lead at home and let the Dallas Mavericks tie the series. Instead of taking a 2-0 lead to Dallas, the Heat lost control of the series and a sense of inevitability about their title.
NBA Finals: Bosh's big shot
After going 11 of 34 in the first two games of the Finals, Chris Bosh was looking for redemption as the series shifted to his hometown of Dallas. It didn't help when Bosh was poked in the left eye by Jason Kidd early in Game 3 and missed 11 of his first 17 shots. But with his eye partially swollen, he took a pass from LeBron James and drained this jumper with 40 seconds left, giving the Heat an 88-86 win when Dirk Nowitzki had a turnover and missed jumper on the Mavs' final two possessions.
NBA Finals: Where's LeBron?
With a chance to seize total command of the Finals, the Heat got big games from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus a strong defensive effort in Game 4. All that was missing was LeBron James. In a strangely passive performance, James scored just eight points, his fewest ever in a playoff game, and was little more than a spectator on the court as the Mavs rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter and evened the series with an 86-83 win.
NBA Finals: Final failure
The last three games of the Finals all followed similar scripts. The Heat couldn't hold leads, the Mavs made all the big shots, and LeBron James didn't perform like the best basketball player on the planet. Dwyane Wade also played poorly in Game 6 as Miami fell at home and lost the series, 4-2.
It's gonna be a long summer
Given the Heat's trials and tribulations throughout the season, merely reaching the NBA Finals could be construed as a success. But losing the title the way they did, with blown leads and LeBron's anemic fourth quarters, means that most people will consider their season a failure. One thing's for sure. Even if the Heat go on to win multiple titles in the future, they'll regret the one that got away.