The Miami Heat’s current run to the NBA Finals (which begin Thursday night) has worked out very nicely for a new podcast. That would be “Four Years of Heat,” hosted by veteran sports journalist Israel Gutierrez (known for his work at ESPN, The Miami Herald, and more). The limited-series narrative podcast, a partnership between iHeartPodcasts and the NBA, has Gutierrez “dive deep into the story of what happened during the four years LeBron James spent with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.” Gutierrez recently spoke to AA on this via email, and said he was immediately intrigued by the idea of looking back at an era he covered closely.
“When it was presented to me, it just felt like it would be a fun project, not only because it brought me back to a memorable time in my career and in my hometown’s history, but it’s always interesting to look back on memories that seem vivid, but actually need some sharpening,” he said. “And the audio medium intrigued me, especially with all the NBA archives at our disposal because it’s an NBA-backed podcast.”
He said working on this podcast has been interesting for its combination of bringing back memories and letting him discover new things about that time.
“It’s definitely some of both. There were times where I was correcting some of the players, because their memories were a tiny bit foggy. But it was a fun experience (kind of) fact checking the guys and them fact checking me right back. But in terms of the feelings surrounding the team at any given time during that era, those memories felt fresh.”
Gutierrez (seen at right above during a past Around The Horn appearance) said it’s been an enjoyable project to work on, too.
“It was a blast putting it together. Some of these players I’ve known for years, and reminiscing about that time was great. I always felt like I could’ve gone for hours. And I always love speaking to some of my fellow journalists and comparing notes about a time we all remember so fondly.”
Four Years of Heat has some unusual qualities, including with its interviewees. Those range from media personalities (including Dan Le Batard, Jim Gray, and Rachel Nichols) to former players (Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen) and even celebrity fans (DJ Khaled). Gutierrez said the rationale for that wide-ranging approach was trying to think of the best possible angles that could be brought here.
“Why not? I mean, we could’ve taken a number of different directions, but I wanted to cast a wide net and speak to people that could discuss that team from a number of different angles. In those four years, there were certain media members that were very present, like Jim Gray during the Decision, or Rachel Nichols throughout. And those are our storytellers who had great access to this team, so why not ask them to retell these stories? As for Khaled, I mean, that was a no-brainer. He’s currently the Heat’s most notable celebrity fan. He has an unmistakable voice, an unmistakable energy, and he was a lot of fun to talk to.”
Gutierrez said some of the former players provided particularly notable interviews.
“There were a few that stood out for different reasons. Joakim Noah is someone who doesn’t like discussing that period because it mostly ended in pain for his team. But he was willing to talk to me and you could still feel the emotions in him as he spoke. But he also talked about how much he loved that period and the competition at its purest level against LeBron and the Heat.”
“Matt Bonner was great also because he’s very introspective, but also because he did the entire interview from his car outside of his house because he kind of wanted to get away from the activity that was going on inside of it. He sat there for about an hour and didn’t seem to mind one bit. Mario Chalmers was great because he always speaks his mind, and he’s one of the few that was there all four years, so there’s not a moment he doesn’t have perspective on. And then Ray Allen, of course, because he’s such a legend and is so thoughtful in every answer he gives.”
Gutierrez said the eight-episode length (two episodes are out so far, with others following weekly) was picked because that’s what fit the story best.
“Honestly, it could have been a lot of different lengths, because there was so much there to dive into. But after laying out the highlights of that four year period and creating the outline we wanted, it worked out where eight episodes of a palatable length each would be able to tell the story we wanted while not making it too long of a listen.”
He said it’s been particularly interesting having this series come out amidst this Heat run, as it was conceived while the team was struggling.
“It’s such a crazy coincidence, because when I decided to do the podcast, Miami was one of the more frustrating teams in the organization. And there was a point where it looked like they wouldn’t even be a playoff team. But with such a buzz around this team and their shocking success, it feels like a good time to look back at the last core to do this with the Heat, and recognize how different the experiences are. The Big Three era came with so many expectations, it was almost a relief when they won, rather than joyful.”
“This group wasn’t expected to do anything, so every win they get in these playoffs feels like a party you didn’t know was coming. And when you combine it with the Florida Panthers run in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NCAA Tournament run of Miami and Florida Atlantic, it feels like a good time to consume anything South Florida basketball related. Oh, and it’s crazy that it’s been ten years since that Ray Allen shot.”
Gutierrez said he thinks there will be appeal here for both hardcore and casual NBA fans, as well as for both those already familiar with the Heat’s Big Three era and those new to it.
“Here’s how I’d suggest it to a lot of NBA fans: to diehard Heat fans old enough to have experienced this era, you’re going to love going back through the best era of the team’s history, and you’ll still learn some things you didn’t know. Plus, some of the calls will put smiles on your faces and goosebumps on your body at some point. To the Heat fans who maybe are only now becoming committed, or maybe just don’t remember some of the finer details of those seasons, this will be a great listen to fill those voids.”
“To the fans of the teams that played against Miami, particularly the Mavericks, Thunder, Celtics, Pacers, Bulls and Spurs, there are portions of this podcast that involve your team and your players, and you might even learn something about those teams. And for fans of LeBron, either in Cleveland or in Los Angeles, who love LeBron and always want to consume more about their favorite player, this was a critical time in his career. It was his championship origin story. And for fans of Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh, or fans of the Raptors who’ll always love Bosh, it’s another connection point to them.”
“And in general, it was just one of the greatest stretches of time for the NBA. So if you’re a fan of this league that brings you so much joy, you’ll probably love going back through this time with these folks.”
[Four Years of Heat on iHeartPodcasts]