Miami Heat celebrate hard-fought title with parade
The NBA champion Miami Heat were in quite a mood to party on Monday.
Players, families, staff members and friends crammed buses, flatbed trucks and cars for the parade honoring the latest Heat championship, with the caravan snaking its way through downtown Miami before a huge crowd of fans. A crowd of up to 400,000 was expected on a hot, steamy morning where the heat index reached the mid-90s by 11 a.m.
''It's the ultimate,'' James told Sun Sports, the Heat broadcast partner, as he rode along the route. ''It's the ultimate. This is what I came down here, to be able to have a parade at the end of the year. I'm extremely blessed, man. It doesn't get any better than this.''
Several players held super-soaker squirt guns and sprayed water on fans below, confetti blew through the air and dotted the streets, and bands blared as the team rolled past with horns honking. Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley stood in the front of one bus, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra - his championship cap turned backward - waved and clapped at fans, and Dwyane Wade pointed at people along the route.
''All the fans that we're seeing here is who supported us throughout the whole season, man,'' James said. ''This is the least we could do is ride through the city and show our appreciation.''
Wade said that without the fans, Miami wouldn't have found a way to win the title.
''It's humbling. It's very humbling to be here,'' Wade said, gazing out at the enormous crowd. ''I envision a lot of things. I can't say I envisioned this. This parade down Biscayne Boulevard was once a vision by Coach Riley and now we've taken this ride three times. It's special.''
Miami became the sixth franchise in NBA history to win consecutive championships, after topping the San Antonio Spurs in this year's finals for the third title overall for the Heat franchise. Wade and Udonis Haslem - a Miami native - are the only players to be part of all three titles, and Wade insisted Monday that the city is going to be his home now for good.
''This is my home. They've treated me well since Day One,'' Wade said. ''I'll be here for probably the rest of my life in this amazing city. I thank the Miamians for accepting me as one of their own.''
James was the series MVP for the second straight year, and won his fourth regular-season MVP award as well.
''I'm honored,'' James said. ''I've watched so many NBA Finals throughout my years, growing up as a kid, wanting to be a part of those moments. To go down as one of the greatest Finals ever and to be a part of it is unbelievable.''
A rally inside the team's home arena was scheduled for later Monday afternoon.
One vehicle carried a number of uniformed military personnel. The Heat have honored military members before every home game in Miami for the past several seasons.
Police reported no major problems early on, and bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs were spotted working their way through the crowd. City officials banned fans from carrying backpacks, though several were spotted along the route and some people were searched randomly for security reasons. The huge crowds and parking difficulty did not seem to take away from the fans' celebratory mood.
''It's the excitement of something that doesn't come around too often, even though we've been lucky to experience it two years in a row,'' said Heat fan Blake Thames, who made the trip down from Palm Beach County.
Some fans began arriving before sunrise Monday, and traffic into downtown was extremely heavy as people hoped to get close enough for a glimpse of the celebration.
''It hasn't hit me yet,'' James said. ''This is unbelievable to be a part of such a great franchise and to be able to go back-to-back.''