Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) stands with teammates Chris Bosh (C) and Dwyane Wade (L) during a stop in play against the Dallas Mavericks' in the second half during Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas, June 7, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
MIAMI - The Miami Heat's 'Big Three' failed to deliver the NBA title in their first year together with the team's inconsistency and at times lack of cohesion, costing them in their defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.
Those American sports fans who objected to the way LeBron James and Chris Bosh left their teams in free agency to link with Dwyane Wade in Miami, will have enjoyed the way the more modestly assembled Mavericks won the series 4-2 through all-round team play.
For the Heat though there was a clear feeling of falling short of their much publicised goal.
"There's certainly an emptiness right now with our group," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We've been through a heck of a lot this season, where in many ways it felt like two seasons built in one.
"There's no excuses. There's no blame. Sometimes you simply come up short. All of the story lines and noise out there, that had nothing to do with this series and the outcome.
"But it doesn't make it feel any easier for the guys in the locker room.
"One day we'll probably be able to look back on this, sometime this summer, when the emptiness and the pain leaves, and we'll feel better about what happened.
"It's a special group. A lot of guys sacrificed to make this happen. It was unfortunate we just came up short.
Americans, like most neutral fans, love backing the underdog and that support had an extra potency this year with the Heat being the team so many love to hate James, for various reasons, becoming a cartoon villain.
For Spoelstra it all seemed a little ridiculous. "LeBron has been a lightning rod for a lot of everything," the coach added. "Criticism, and a lot of the noise that's been created outside. I think it's really unfair.
"He made a tremendous sacrifice to come here, and he's been an ultimate team player. He should not be criticised for that," he said, referring to James' decision - like Wade and Bosh - to take a pay cut to join forces in South Florida.
The Heat's plans for next year will surely involve an examination of their bench options, though what will be looked at in the coming days will be what appeared to be a lack of vibrancy in the Heat's performance in game six and Bosh suggested Dallas had shown the greater desire.
"They wanted it more than we did. They played great, we came up short and that's it really. We played together, they just did a better job. They were the better team," he said.
The Heat though are not alone in being a top team who fell short of expectations and Spoelstra said he hoped the season would be viewed as a learning process on the way to better things.
"It could be that it is a rite of passage, but that's not what we were thinking about now," he said.
"But we still have a young core. It's a bright future."