I don't always agree with Rick Reilly. But when I agree with him, I agree with him.
Everything he says here is absolutely spot-on. As impressive, and as good for the NBA, as the Heat's streak is, it's no more impressive than the Lakers' 1971-72 streak of 33 straight that Miami's chasing, no matter what LeBron James says.
I've heard his argument echoed elsewhere that the presence of the ABA somehow diluted the NBA in those days, and the people who are saying that are either A) too young to remember the ABA, or B) so old their memory has deserted them.
Mine hasn't, which is why I heartily subscribe to everything Reilly says about the ABA. Saying its presence diluted the competition in the NBA is like saying the presence of the D-League dilutes the competition in today's NBA. In '71-'72, there were maybe three teams in the ABA that could have remotely competed in the NBA -- the Pacers, the Utah Stars and the Kentucky Colonels. Everyone else was the Maine Red Claws.
And to Jerry West's point that they were playing against men, not kids barely out of high school, I would add this: They were also playing teams that had not just men but actual big men. Every night, Wilt Chamberlain was going up against Nate Thurmond, Bob Lanier, Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, the young Kareem. These days, because it's a different kind of league, the Heat doesn't have to worry about that. There are only two legit centers in the whole league: Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan.
So ... no. The Heat's streak in its era is no more impressive than the Lakers' streak was in its.
History lesson over.