by Ben Osborne | @bosborne17

Group shot (right) by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images; cover shot by David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images

Sometime between August of ’08 and July of ’10, three relatively young men—Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh—hatched a plan to take over the NBA. Was their plotting against the rules? Not unless team executives were in on it. Was it against the spirit of competition? Maybe…but the next guy you show me on the playground who picks shitty players for his next because it’s more fun to play with scrubs than hold court with good teammates will be the first I’ve seen.

Did I love it when it all went down? Not exactly. I hated “The Decision” on ESPN, and I legitimately felt bad for Cleveland and Toronto sports fans. But I never got mad at the players involved. They earned the extremely rare right—through incredible talent, hard work, and their Player’s Union—to control their destiny, and they exercised it. Dwyane, Bron and Chris chose to come together in Miami and chase titles together. And they certainly didn’t hide their intentions. They had a public celebration before they played a single game. Sure, that was tacky, but as the hate piled on the Heat, I actually found myself rooting for them more and more. I suppose I’ve always been a contrarian (I grew up in suburban NY but was the only kid who rooted for the Nets over the Knicks, after all), but at the risk of going all Graydon Carter/David Granger on you, I think I started to sense something larger about what these three guys did.

Here are three young men who made a plan, went public with it in the face of immense scorn, and have now taken one huge step toward bringing that plan to life (note: after “promising” seven or more titles I won’t call one a total victory, but I think two or three would be pretty impressive). What’s the big deal? As best I see in both my personal and professional lives, most people choose to never even plan for greatness, so scared are they of the internal pressure. Others make plans but keep them to themselves, scared to be laughed at if they fail. And still others make plans and broad predictions, and then fail miserably.

Think about how often you see this from people in your own life…and then maybe re-think how you feel about the Miami Heat.

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The above is essentially what I wrote in my editor’s letter for this issue, which hit stands in NYC today and should be nationwide next week. That was all I had room for in print, but today I have room to shout out the rest of the issue, not to mention the incredible response the cover has gotten since we first posted it eight days ago.

By looking at the cover you can obviously gather that our always popular Year in Photos feature is in this issue, insuring us another 12 months of being the magazine most likely to end up ripped up and hanging from a fan’s bedroom wall. There’s a great feature on Joe Johnson and the work he does at home in Little Rock. It was obviously written pre-Nets trade, but it doesn’t matter at all. This piece is about Joe the person more than Joe the NBA All-Star. There’s also an awesome Old School piece on the oft-misunderstood Derrick Coleman by rock star writer Alan Paul. Plus, our new high school diarists, Olympic kicks and much more.

As for the early response to the cover, all of us here can only feel grateful. We worked hard to pick a photo and a cover line that captured this championship, and Creative Director Melissa Brennan did her usual great job of putting it all together in a good-looking package that will stand out on newsstands, but none of us felt we’d done anything much better than what we do every single month. But thankfully, a lot of people did. Even the early reader reactions were pretty intense. Most loving it, some hating our use of the word “Haters” because they felt LeBron didn’t think that way. Then LeBron himself endorsed it with a tweet. At that point, the floodgates opened up with comments on the site, FaceBook likes, Instagram love and a ton of tweets pouring in from around the world. Our man Dave Zirin called it the “greatest cover in SLAM history.” Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch, who mostly covers sports media, called it “pretty tremendous.” Finally, last Friday ESPN’s First Take spent about seven minutes discussing the cover (appreciate your words, Israel). All this for a cover that wasn’t even out yet!

But now it is out. So…go cop it!

SLAM 161