In My Opinion

Owner Micky Arison soaks in the Miami Heat’s Game 7 win

 

dlebatard@miamiherald.com

Exhausted and loving it, the world's most modest billionaire settles into the couch in his private suite at the arena after midnight, not wanting to let go of this floating feeling just yet. His phone is buzzing with congratulatory texts, but Heat owner Micky Arison is focused on the four televisions hanging on the wall before him, all of them piping in different Heat highlights and private press-conference feeds. It is a bombardment of stimuli, sitting in this suite with his regal wife Madeleine, so many of the photos on the walls of the Heat's champagne-soaked 2006, photographs from a victorious past framing Arison as he continues to unwrap his joyous present.

"Watch this," Arison says.

He takes the remote, and puts the image from one of the smaller televisions on the biggest one. It is of the on-court trophy ceremony that he was at the center of even though, um, he really didn't want to be at the center of it. Funny thing about Arison. He is the boss, but you wouldn't know it by the way he behaves. He is publicity shy. Doesn't like microphones. And, after the Pacers series, when he was in such a giddy mood that he did want to do a rare radio interview to praise his team for all it had overcome, the billionaire boss of the Heat felt obliged to call and ask the team's media-relations director for permission.

So, after his Heat ended the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to win the Eastern Conference, Arison got stuck on the court at the center of the trophy celebration. Yes, stuck. Arison asked Pat Riley, his employee, to accept the trophy on the team's behalf, but Riley declined, remaining in the stands to laugh at his boss' discomfort. OK, Arison thought, if my employee won't do it for me, certainly my family will. So he asked his son Nick, the team's CEO, to accept the trophy, but his son shook his head no and fled. And that's why what is now on the television in this private suite is a really uncomfortable owner watching a really uncomfortable owner on TV.

"Watch how quickly I get rid of the trophy," he says.

On the TV, he is handed the Eastern Conference trophy, and he doesn't even hold it up. Honestly, he passes it faster than any basketball Dwyane Wade has ever given over to LeBron James. Whomever was closest to Arison was getting that trophy, and that's why, at the center of this celebration, after ending the veteran Celtics, the guy shaking the trophy over his head on behalf of the Heat is a rookie named Norris Cole, who scored all of seven points in seven games.

"That celebration doesn't feel right," Arison says. "We haven't won anything yet. So I said, 'Take it, rook.'"

A laugh.

"You can't hear anything at all when you are interviewed down there on the court," he says. "Whatever I was asked, I was just going to congratulate the Celtics, thank our fans and get out of there."

Arison and Riley, the architects of this magical team, have grown so very close over the years, ever since he stole the coaching legend from the Knicks and had to pay a million dollars and first-round pick for tampering.

"Worth it, huh?" Arison says now.

The first time Arison and Riley talked about Riley taking the Heat job was on Arison's yacht in Boston.

"Remember that dinner?" Arison asks his wife now, and she smiles and laughs in confirmation. Their son, a former ballboy, was only 13 then. He didn't say a single syllable during the meal. Not one. Wouldn't even make eye contact with Riley, he was so awed by being in the presence of basketball royalty. And now that former ballboy is Riley's boss and ignoring Dad's wish that he go get that trophy.

Arison, per usual, was a mess during Saturday's game. Scared. Frenzied. Angry at the refs. Asking broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy questions. By halftime, the cruise magnate had to feel kind of sea sick, down seven points even though Kevin Garnett was in foul trouble. Arison was so engrossed and queasy that he didn't even notice that, sitting right behind him court side, there were four little people dressed as leprechauns. He thought his wife was joking when she kept telling him to look at the four tiny leprechauns, and he was too nervous to laugh at any jokes.

But the Heat finally gave him relief with a season-saving fourth quarter at the most crucial time. Shane Battier, who hasn't been very good this year, put up his best game of the season at the most important time. And Chris Bosh, who had made four three-pointers all year, chose a pretty good time to make three more. And LeBron broke the Celtics with a deep three-pointer that might as well have been worth 10, given how it ended Boston.

After hearing all the press conferences, Arison turns the big TV over to the Manny Pacquiao fight, where the announcers are howling about how Pacquiao has been robbed on a decision.

"We're not even going to be the big sports story tomorrow," he says.

One of the other televisions is showing the on-court celebration with the uncomfortable Heat owner again.

"That," Arison says, "Is not the trophy that I want."

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