Having a history, and in particular having a championship history, also means having to endure the what-if moments.
What if Dan Majerle doesn’t allow the New York Knicks’ Allen Houston to duck under and then convert the winning shot that eliminated the Heat from the 1999 playoffs?
What if Jamal Mashburn didn’t pass up a better look instead of passing to Clarence Weatherspoon for the miss that ended the team’s playoff hopes in 2000?
What if Dwyane Wade wasn’t ailing during the 2005 Eastern Conference finals?
What if the air conditioning didn’t go out in Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals in that loss to the San Antonio Spurs?
And now, what if Jimmy Butler’s 3-point pull-up attempt in transition was true with 16.6 seconds left while down two in what instead turned into the Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics two weeks ago in the Eastern Conference finals?
Tuesday, during an appearance at the team’s summer youth camp at Cooper City High School, Heat guard Gabe Vincent was put on the spot by an adolescent about that moment, when asked what he thought about the attempt that came while there seemingly also was a path to the rim for Butler to tie the game.
“I loved it,” Vincent said. “I thought the game was over. I thought we won.”
Had that been the case, Vincent on Tuesday instead could have been celebrating his 26th birthday during a travel day amid the NBA Finals.
Later, after posing for pictures with campers alongside team mascot Burnie, Vincent said it is a moment that still marinates in his mind.
“Sometimes it ends a little better than it did,” he said with a smile of his alternate reality. “I’ll tell you that much. Sometimes it ended a little better than it did.”
But, no looking back.
And no issue with how the Heat’s team leader chose to handle that moment.
“But, like I said, I support Jimmy,” he continued. “I support the shot. I probably would have done the same thing in his position. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and I’m sure he got a lot of heat for it. But he has my support.”
For now, Vincent has tuned out that moment — and the best-of-seven NBA Finals that the Golden State Warriors lead 3-2 over the Celtics.
“I’m not really watching the games, to be honest,” he said. “And that’s no disrespect to the other two teams. I know they’ve been good games. I’ve caught pieces here and there, but I haven’t really been watching.”
For Vincent, it has been a 12-month whirlwind, from training last summer with the Nigerian Olympic team to the Games in Tokyo to moving from his Heat two-way contract a year ago to this season’s standard deal.
“I just think it was a long year for myself overall with basketball. It started before the season started,” he said.”So I think I just needed a little bit of a break, and I’m sure I’ll go back and watch the games, some of these games, without the commentary.”
Technically, the Heat have a June 29 deadline to pick up their $1.8 million guarantee on Vincent for next season. But that merely is a formality, considering that Vincent, based on his contribution as a frequent starter this past season, likely would command more than three times as much on the open market.
“It’s a little different than the other situations I’ve been in,” he said of having a contract almost assuredly in place and guaranteed for next season. “But I try not to count my eggs before they hatch. So we’ll wait until they pick up that option, if they do.”
As far as Tuesday’s birthday, he was presented with a cake and serenaded by the campers, already taken to dinner by Heat center Bam Adebayo.
“I couldn’t wait to get out here and have some fun with the kids,” he said.
And then, soon enough, it will be time to get back to work.
“There have been countless things this year that were like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible,’ ” he said. “The Olympic stuff, [winning an exhibition for Nigeria against] Team USA, to this season, playing more than I had previous years and a playoff run and getting minutes in the playoffs.
“Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. But there were a lot of things to hang your hat on and be proud of.”