Orlando was the epicenter of sporting greatness Monday. Unfortunately, it had little to do with Orlando-based athletes.
Tiger Woods asserted traces of his old dominance on the golf course when he repeated as the Arnold Palmer Invitational champion after a rain-delayed final on Monday at Bay Hill. About 20 minutes up the road later that night, LeBron James electrified fans at Amway Center with a conservative yet effective performance as the Miami Heat extended their win streak to 27 games, leaving them just six victories away from matching NBA history.
There is an atmosphere that winning tends to breed. And then there's an atmosphere only Woods and James can bring.
After all, who else but James can attract a media circus and a celebrity crowd to a game where your opponent's greatest victory, so far this season, is finishing a game with five players?
I'm serious. Andrew Nicholson joined the Magic's growing list of the broken and battered when he left the game early against the Heat with an ankle injury. Considering that the team is now without Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis for the rest of the season and promising 7-foot center Nik Vucevic is day-to-day while recovering from a concussion, it's a good day when Orlando completes the night with a full roster.
Even opponents like this, nights like this, games like this are a national story when a special player like James elevates his team to a sporting phenomenon.
"We're playing well. We still can get better," said Dwyane Wade, who was sidelined with sore knees. "I don't think we have reached our potential yet. We'll reach that in the finals, hopefully, if we make it."
If they make it? That's cute.
Few folks are questioning if the Heat will make it to the NBA Finals. The bigger question is how they'll make it to the finals.
Will the Heat enter the finals having made NBA history by eclipsing the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' record 33-game winning streak? What combination of stars will the Heat use? James, Wade and Chris Bosh? James and Bosh while resting Wade's weathered knees? James and Wade?
Judging by the results, the combination doesn't matter. Miami has coasted and Miami has clawed (why were they down by double figures against the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers again?) to put together a phenomenal 27-game win streak.
Honestly, even if the Heat fail to break the Lakers' record, this should still go down as the greater accomplishment.
There is no comparison to the pressures today's Heat team faces versus yesterday's Lakers. ESPN and social media didn't exist 41 years ago. And the quality of competition Miami is playing against is far superior.
"Back then, the leagues were separate. It wasn't a full league at that time; the ABA and NBA leagues spread apart,'' James told FOX Sports about the 1971-72 team. "So some of the greatest players weren't even in the [NBA] at the time. But … that takes nothing away from what [the Lakers] were able to accomplish: 33 games in a row is 33 games in a row. I don't care who you're playing against. Our league is so competitive now. We've got 30 teams. We have so many great players. To even have [winning 33 straight] as a goal for me, it was never even an option.'"
Trust me, this isn't your typical Heat hype. This is deserved recognition.
Two things in particular help distinguish this streak: 1. As defending NBA champions chasing history under the media spotlight, the Heat receive every opponent's best effort every night; 2. They're accomplishing this without a full-time center.
The Lakers had arguably the greatest center of all time in Wilt Chamberlain. The Heat have Bosh, who despite what the roster says plays like a power forward.
Miami has built an identity on small ball and intense late-game defensive pressure for an entire season. So far, it's working and the world will continue watching.