MIAMI — Mercury Morris’ influence has been expanded. Apparently, he’s now also relevant when it comes to basketball streaks.
Earlier this month, when the Miami Heat’s winning streak had reached 16, forward Shane Battier was asked if the Heat could approach the 22-game run Battier’s Houston Rockets had in 2007-08, then the second-longest in NBA history.
“Like Mercury Morris (said), ‘Don’t call me when you’re on my block, call me when you’re on my front porch,’ ’’ Battier quipped about the former Miami Dolphins running back, who has gained newfound recognition in recent years with outlandish talk of wanting nobody to equal the 1972 Dolphins’ undefeated season.
Well, the Heat eventually did pass the Rockets. After their streak reached 25 with a 103-89 win Friday over Detroit, it was forward LeBron James’ turn to bring up Morris. James did so when asked about members of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers showing great respect toward the Heat as their record 33-game winning streak is being challenged.
“A guy like Mercury Morris and guys like that and stuff, that’s crazy,’’ James said. “(Morris) was talking about the Patriots when they went undefeated (in the 2007 regular season). He was saying, ‘Don’t step on my lawn’ and all that crazy stuff.’’
So Morris, who played in the NFL from 1969 to 1976, has entered the NBA world. He’s certainly enjoying it.
“As far as LeBron bringing me up, hey, you tell him, ‘Don’t call me when you’re in my town. Call me when you’re on my freaking block,’ ’’ Morris told FOX Sports Florida on Saturday.
Morris had weighed in on the Heat streak Friday, before James had mentioned him. He said then: “A friend of mine asked me about the streak, and I said, ‘Call me when it’s at 31. Then I’ll talk about it. Everything before then is (media) fluff.’’’
Morris rushed for 1,000 yards in 1972, when the Dolphins went 17-0 in the regular season and playoffs to become the only undefeated and untied team in NFL history. After winning the Super Bowl that season, they claimed another title in 1973.
Morris began to establish himself as the spokesman for the 1972 Dolphins when the Indianapolis Colts moved their record to 13-0 in 2005 before finally losing. He really gained fame for his brash talk in 2007, when the New England Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season and won two playoff games before losing in the Super Bowl.
So how precisely does this streak sage evaluate where the Heat stands now when it comes to threatening the Lakers’ mark?
“I would say logistically they’ve come into town and they’ve got several blocks to go,’’ Morris said. “As a matter of fact, I think about eight or nine blocks to go. But when they get to 30, they’ll be in the neighborhood. And when they get to 31, they’ll be on the block. But I ask the question, ‘Will they be parking?’ ’’
It might not sound like it. But while Morris actively roots against NFL teams to not approach his Dolphins, he is pulling for the Heat.
“I hope they break the record,’’ said Morris, a Miami resident. “And I hope they go on to achieve greater things. I hope they go on to win the championship.’’
While it appeared James was criticizing him Friday, Morris took that in stride. He’s just happy he’s still remembered.
“I don’t mind,’’ said Morris, 66. “I love it. I’ve got my AARP card, I’m on Social Security and we’re still talking about what we did when I suited up.’’
James was contrasting how the 1971-72 Lakers have dealt with the Heat approaching their record as opposed to how the Morris and other members of the 1972 Dolphins have handled it when NFL teams are on a long streak. The 1972 Dolphins have become well known for drinking champagne when the last undefeated team falls during an NFL season.
Bill Sharman, coach of the 1971-72 Lakers, and Gail Goodrich, that team’s leading scorer, both have told FOX Sports Florida they would like to hold onto the record. But they say they have great respect for Pat Riley, the Heat president who was a guard on the 1971-72 Lakers, and won’t be rooting against Miami.
Talking to media outlets, Jerry West, a 1971-72 Lakers star, also has lavished praise on the Heat.
Those Lakers might be handling it quite differently than the 1972 Dolphins. But that doesn’t matter to Morris.
“I doubt that anybody sincerely would want somebody to break their record,’’ Morris said.
As for James having called his talk “crazy,’’ Morris has a final thought on that regarding the 1972 Dolphins.
“It is crazy,’’ he said. “But, guess what, we’re still standing.’’