Haters, keep on hating. Miami is still celebrating.
The Miami Heat, NBA champions once again, soaked up the adoration of throngs of cheering fans who gridlocked Miami Monday as the team took a victory lap through downtown and into the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Families arrived at midnight for front-row spots. Workers called in sick with faux illnesses. And fans found creative, if not illegal, ways to grab a better view of King James and the Larry O’Brien trophy.
“Miami parties better than any city in the world,” said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra.
And they’re getting used to it at this time of year.
Monday’s championship parade was the third in seven years for the team and city, and the second in a row, which puts the Heat in an exclusive class in the National Basketball Association. Only five other franchises have won back-to-back titles.
It was the type of celebration League and Finals MVP LeBron James had in mind when he signed with the Heat three years ago, to be introduced at the arena with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a pyrotechnic party that at the time was mocked around the nation. The criticisms only grew louder after the team lost in the finals that year.
And even this year, media critics said another year without a championship would be a failure for a team that James himself predicted would win multiple titles. But James, who led the crowd Monday in a chant of “I ain’t got no worries,” is now a two-time champion. He gets to answer questions like, “Which one is your favorite?”
“I love em’ both, man” he said. “They always say you love your first more than the second, but that second one was sweet as well.”
Inside the arena, Heat players talked about winning a franchise-best 66 games, and 27 straight, the second-longest streak in league history. Shane Battier even wore his “horsestronaut” mask, which he donned in the team’s viral Harlem Shake video this year.
Some players were already talking three-peat.
“We’re going for three in a row,” said Miami native James Jones.
Team president Pat Riley talked history.
“It really is about respect,” Riley said to season ticket holders. “You don’t merely want to be considered the best of the best in anything you do. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do. You separate yourselves from the pack. And I don’t think there’s any doubt they’ve separated themselves from the pack this year. And their names are going to be respected and honored.”
The first to do so was Miami-Dade’s Board of County Commissioners, which proclaimed Monday Miami Heat 2013 Champions Day.
Outside, Heat fans didn’t need a proclamation to know what day it was. They flooded downtown, jamming highways and city streets for hours. Commuters were held up as well as revelers, some of whom didn’t make it to the arena in time to claim their seats.
Even cruise liners were delayed, including those belonging to Carnival Cruise Lines. Heat owner Micky Arison is the chief executive of Carnival’s parent company.
“I’m not real into basketball anyway, but this pissed me off,” said Sarah Merry, 17, of Columbus, Ohio, one of a dozen nervous cruise travelers who abandoned their airport shuttle and lugged suitcases down trash-strewn Biscayne Boulevard to get to the port after the parade was over.