Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - What if the Miami Heat kept on winning?
What if their miraculous streak had not ended?
Could you imagine, with the NBA playoffs about to start, how much excitement would surround their every move?
The Heat wouldn't just be the favorite to win it all, they'd be riding a 39- game winning streak, better than any team had ever done.
(The Los Angeles Lakers still hold the record for a pro sports team, winning a remarkable 33 straight games in the 1971-72 season. That team, led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, went on to win the NBA title, too.)
The Heat would be past the Lakers - way past, really, when you do the math. And, regardless of how the playoffs went, their streak would continue into the start of the regular season in October. That would be insane.
Better yet, imagine if they had done it last year? Before they won the title and before the zillions of fans who despised LeBron James started to like him again once he got his ring. As far as the sports world is concerned, the Heat would be public enemy No. 1 and No. 2.
Of course, that wasn't the case, but let's make a case for what the Heat have done and what they're about to do.
A year ago, when they were universally hated, they silenced everybody by winning a championship. They had made many of us Oklahoma City Thunder fans even if the only Thunder player we knew was Kevin Durant.
And then they dumped the Thunder in five games. And we had to accept the fact the Heat were the best, the king of the hill. And then they were cool and gracious about it. It suddenly became almost easy to like LeBron again.
Being gracious and cool does that (Tiger Woods, take note).
The Heat had been in the Finals in 2011, too, and were taken out by the Dallas Mavericks, who, at the time, had become nearly everybody's favorite team (Go, Dirk!) for the same reason the Thunder was for a week or so last year.
They were bad guys then for sure. Today, they are back in nearly everyone's good graces and could do something very rare these days: repeat as champions.
That just doesn't happen anymore in this day and age of free agency, salary caps and complacency.
Give yourself a gold star in petty cash if you knew any of these:
The last NBA team to repeat was the Los Angeles Lakes in 2009-2010.
The last NHL team to repeat was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-1998.
The last NFL team to repeat was the New England Patriots in 2004-2005.
And the last MLB team to repeat was the New York Yankees in 1998-1999 and 2000 (a three-peat, wow).
It says here the Heat will add their name to this prestigious list (we'll take a deeper look at the NBA playoffs next week; just call that previous words a little bit of foreshadowing).
For now, let's finish up what could have been.
Had they kept winning, Miami would be entering the playoffs with a 68-14 record, which would have tied them for the fifth-best regular-season mark in NBA history.
Instead, the Heat head to the postseason with a 66-16 mark, meaning they've lost just two games since their winning streak ended. That's 10-2 in their last 12 - pretty impressive. Not as impressive as 39 straight, but still pretty darn good.
So, we don't have a huge winning streak from a team as the playoffs arrive, but we're still in the presence of potential greatness.
A third straight trip to the Finals, and maybe another title, would remove the word potential and lift the Heat up to greatness.
A year later, I wouldn't mind seeing that.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area newspapers for over 25 years.