Sorry, Heat haters. There’s no mocking this
Two years after assembling the Kings’ Court, the coronation is complete.
LeBron James will soon get his ring. But first, Miami got its party.
The Miami Heat took a brisk victory lap through downtown Miami on Monday, a star-studded, confetti-chucking parade that quickly — some thought too quickly — wound its way to AmericanAirlines Arena as traffic piled up on surrounding highways.
That set the stage for a throw-down that was two years in the making: a pyrotechnic bonanza on the same floor where the Heat captured its second league championship in six years.
But unlike the last time the Heat threw a house party — the garish, July 2010 bash for the Big 3 that became a national punch line when the team fell short of a title in 2011 — no one can question if this one was deserved (or unduly over-the-top).
The outside world “didn’t support this team. They counted this team out,” coach Erik Spoelstra told the rowdy crowd. “But they never estimated how close this team was as a family.
“Today is about the fiesta,” he added. “Let’s show everybody how we do it.”
From team executive Pat Riley on down, nearly everyone on stage sported the black-framed glasses that have become the NBA’s trendiest accessory.
The message was clear: The future is bright in Miami.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my basketball career,” said LeBron James, the MVP of both the league and the NBA Finals. “This is my dream right here.”
Dwyane Wade gave as well as received, handing out ritzy Hublot watches ($10,000 and up) to Riley, Spoelstra and team owner Micky Arison.
The mayors of both Miami and Miami-Dade, Tomás Regalado and Carlos Gimenez, took turns at the microphone. Gimenez proclaimed Monday “Miami Heat, 2012 NBA Champions Day.”
But no official declaration was necessary. Any of the tens of thousands who packed the streets of Miami could tell you the day belonged to their champions.
With team mascot Burnie leading the way in a fire engine’s cherry-picker, Heat players, coaches and staff — along with their families — stood atop double-decker buses, waving to adoring throngs. Despite fear of rain, everyone stayed dry.
Besides Burnie’s fire truck, a handful of buses, a few convertibles and a big rig quickly made their way toward the arena. Expected to take up to 90 minutes, the celebration arrived at Bayside Marketplace in just half an hour.
It went by so fast that some who had staked out spots since dawn barely could get a glimpse of their heroes.
“I only saw the back of LeBron’s head,” said Javi Diaz, 19, who watched on Southwest Eighth Street.
Diaz and two friends compared this parade to the first one, saying that the one in 2006 was more organized, slower paced and began later.
While the parade went quickly, the traffic around Miami-Dade didn’t, with thousands stuck in horrendous traffic on highways in and out of downtown. A rush-hour commute that usually takes a half-hour lasted five times that long as highways became parking lots.
Then there were some hard feelings over the Heat’s decision to have the rally inside the arena instead of outdoors where all could participate, as was the case in 2006. A limited number of tickets to Monday’s party were made available to the public after season-ticket holders got first crack at them.
“We really appreciate the fans, all the love,” said forward Udonis Haslem, a Miami native. “The least we can do is ride down the street, wave our hands, and show our love for the fans. We’ve got more partying to do.”
Draped on the side of the buses: an enormous banner of the championship trophy, with the message, “Thanks Heat Fans.”
Wade got the honor (and responsibility) of carrying the actual trophy as he cruised through Miami. Wade had a tighter grip on the hardware than the Spanish soccer stars who let their Copa del Rey trophy slip through their fingers during a similar parade, ending up under the bus wheels.
While cloud cover made the day a little cooler than it otherwise would be, the heat was a bit too much for some. At least two observers fainted along Biscayne Boulevard. There were also distress calls for children who had wandered away from their parents.
But for the most part, it was a display of peaceful, and safe, revelry. From Calle Ocho to Bayside, tens of thousands lined Miami’s streets to take part in the moveable feast.
They wore Heat championship shirts, Wade jerseys and inflatable crowns. And a chicken suit. And large snakes. One brave man dressed up as a Knicks fan.
Some started the celebration a little early with Coronas or liquor out of a flask. But just a few. This crowd was full of kids and mothers with strollers.
Several people brought the family dog along for the parade. Only one man brought his snakes — two rescued boa constrictors.
“They needed a little exercise,” said the handler, who calls himself Fang Daddy. “And they wanted to support the Heat.”
At the intersection of Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street, Calvin Darville, 25, was wearing a Miami Heat hat and a brand new championship T-shirt as he waited for the celebration parade to start.
He drove two hours from Fort Pierce Sunday night to get here early Monday morning. His favorite player is James.
So what would he say to LeBron haters?
“Kiss the ring.” Miami Herald staff writers Anthony Cave, Tim Chapman, Anna Edgerton, Daniela Guzman, Margaux Hererra, Michael McGuire, Meredith Rutland, Colleen Wright and Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.