Thursday night marked what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called “the two greatest words in team sports” — Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Before the Heat squared off with the San Antonio Spurs for the winner-take-all game, fans from East Asia to Miami surrounded AmericanAirlines Arena with excitement.
Jun Wu and his friend Chengkai Yang attended their first NBA game Thursday, after years of admiring superstars from China. Jun and Chengkai arrived sporting a jersey of their favorite player.
Jun, a self-proclaimed “huge LeBron James fan” has been in America for a year and decided to make Game 7 the first time to see his favorite player.
“I love the Heat,” Jun said. “I’m very excited. I think this building will have a great atmosphere. In China, I would always watch these games.”
Chengkai was a fan of another cog in Miami’s trio of superstars, saying that he was a big Dwyane Wade supporter even before the Big 3 came together. Both predicted a Heat win Thursday.
Fans also made the trip from different parts of the country.
Roderick Lipscomb, a contractor from Indianapolis, was attending his first playoff game of the season in Miami, after previously catching the Heat during its Eastern Conference finals series against the Indiana Pacers back home.
“I’ve been a huge LeBron fan, so from that I became a Heat fan,” Lipscomb said. “I’ve been doing work down here, and I told my friend if they go seven I’ll spend whatever. I think it was worth every dollar.”
Fans from Miami were well represented along Biscayne Boulevard as well.
But after many fans left Game 6 early — before Miami’s five-point comeback with less than 30 seconds left — the loyalty of local fans was scrutinized by the national media.
Even the Heat’s Chris Bosh had pointed words for the fans who left before Tuesday’s final buzzer, saying those fans should “stay home” instead of coming to the arena for the team’s final home game of the year.
One loyal fan who was at Game 6 returned for Game 7 was Tayler Gonzalez. He expected another “real close game” for the series finale.
With tickets starting at $525 on some resale websites about an hour before tipoff, almost every person attending Thursday’s game dipped into the savings to secure a seat.
Still, most fans seemed to be content with how the season unfolded up until Game 7, with the Heat already notching 81 wins for the season.
“With the Spurs, it’s not surprising that [it came] to Game 7,” Lipscomb said. “It’s fun no matter what. All that matters is that they leave it all on the floor.”
Others insisted that the season should be considered a success regardless of the Thursday’s outcome.
“People overlook how hard it is to make three straight NBA Finals,” Lamar Hardy said. “The season is definitely a success.”