When Pat Riley joined the Miami Heat organization in the 1995, he promised to bring a parade to Biscayne Boulevard.
On Monday, Riley’s promise came to fruition for the third time in team history. And as the Heat’s 2013 procession turned onto Biscayne Boulevard into a sea of thousands of fans, it created an image coach Erik Spoelstra said would be “etched in his mind forever.”
The 2013 parade started late because of a weather delay, a blessing in disguise for some fans. Many cars were stuck in traffic while attempting to enter Downtown Miami. On the highway, a few eager fans even ditched their cars and walked toward the parade, leaving frustrated drivers to fend for themselves.
The procession, a bit slower compared to last year’s, featured double-decker buses and convertible sports cars. Finals MVP LeBron James headlined one of the buses with a cigar in mouth, flanked by Juwan Howard, taking the time to Instagram some sights.
Other highlights included Chris Bosh with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on one bus, Chris Andersen and Mike Miller leading another float, a bus for Riley and owner Micky Arison and a special float for Army personnel.
The streets were lined with fans throughout the route, a welcome sight for Spoelstra, who gave the fans credit despite their poor reputation nationally.
“We wouldn’t have been able to win either Game 7 without [our fans], we truly believe that,” Spoelstra said. “You’re starting to see a new legion of Miami Heat fans with young kids that you didn’t necessarily see 15 years ago. The interest in basketball here we think is a direct correlation between the success and the way the community embraced our team.”
As the parade ended, the Heat continued its party with a celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena. Coaches, management and players were introduced individually, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy stood at center stage.
Riley entered to one of his favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, dancing his way toward the trophy. James was the last player to be introduced, but his applause was comparable to Dwyane Wade, and even the Birdman.
Members of the Heat staff interviewed each player once inside, in addition to airing of various highlight videos created by the team. Some players offered interesting thoughts, with Andersen saying “let’s try to get a three-peat next year,” Ray Allen calling his Game 6 three-pointer “the biggest shot [he] ever hit in [his] career,” and Udonis Haslem recalling his humble beginnings and saying that “to pay $2,000 to slap someone upside the head, I’d pay that all day” in reference to his enforcer role.
The parade and celebration had a little extra meaning for Wade and Haslem, the only two players in franchise history to play on all three championship teams.
Haslem noted that the fandom surrounding the team grew exponentially since its first title and parade in 2006.
“It was huge when [Shaquille O’Neal] was here, I thought it was the biggest it could get,” Haslem said. “It’s grown tremendously. I’m not sure everybody is a born and raised Heat fan, but that’s all right, we’ll take it anyway. We got enough room for everybody.”
And Wade, who took a step back on the court to accommodate LeBron, also lost some attention off the court to whom Wade described as “the best beeping player in the world.” But the fans in Miami still love Wade — who just completed his 10th season in the league in a Heat uniform.
“My relationship with the fans hasn’t changed,” Wade said of the past three years. “I’ve been loved in the Miami since the day I got drafted, and it hasn’t changed at all. Wherever I go, people continue to show me love and respect, and I do appreciate that.”