POSTED: 10:53 a.m. HST, Jun 25, 2012
MIAMI >> The NBA championship trophy was center stage, bathed in white light and sitting on a pedestal. And each Miami Heat player offered it a different greeting.
Mike Miller bowed. Udonis Haslem kissed it three times. Chris Bosh hugged it, and LeBron James strolled past before waving at the crowd.
Dwyane Wade did something different. In a nod to his preferred postgame fashion style throughout the playoffs, he emerged with a pair of faux eyeglasses and slipped the frames onto the neck of the trophy. Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team managing general partner Micky Arison all donned similar pairs of the black spectacles as well for the party.
The glasses were fake. The sentiments were all real.
And with that, two years after Wade, James and Bosh opened their time together with a celebration, they got the party they really wanted on Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Miami for the Heat championship parade, and then 15,000 more got into the arena afterward for a long, loud reception for the NBA's new kings.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had. ... This was my dream, right here, to be able to hoist that Larry O'Brien Trophy up, hug it, grab it, never want to let it go," James said.
During the parade, players and coaches were on double-decker buses with friends and family, most of them taking photos and video of the crowd. Other Heat staff were on flatbed trucks, as confetti fell and horns blared every step of the way. Wade cradled the championship trophy in his arms for much of the ride.
"I appreciate all our fans for sticking with us," said the now two-time NBA champion Wade, adding, "Best fans in the world."
And then the party moved inside, with a similar setup to the event that welcomed James and Bosh to Miami to play alongside Wade in July 2010. Music blared for nearly an hour as fans danced for joy, before the arena went dark briefly — and someone sneaked the trophy onto the stage.
For nearly 90 minutes afterward, the Heat relived so many aspects of the season, from Haslem's flagrant foul against Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough in the Eastern Conference finals ("the greatest flagrant foul in team history," Heat broadcaster Eric Reid told the crowd) to countless highlights from the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, the Heat left few stones unturned.
Juwan Howard — the first member of Michigan's Fab Five to win an NBA title — did the Cabbage Patch dance, as teammates broke into absolute hysterics, waving their arms in time with him. Mario Chalmers was asked about why Wade and James yell at him so much on the court, as a montage of some of their more fiery moments played on the giant video screens. And the Miami natives, Haslem and James Jones, got perhaps the loudest ovations of anyone outside of the finals MVP.
"Feels great, man," said Haslem, who along with Wade is the lone holdover from Miami's 2006 championship club. "Changing my name from Mr. Miami to Mr. Two-Time. I ain't Mr. Miami no more. I'm Mr. Two-Time. ... It never gets old. But this one is more gratifying because of the way last season ended."
Spoelstra had a similar sentiment, talking to the crowd about the team's commitment, especially after Miami lost last season's finals to Dallas.
"People from the outside, they criticized this group, this team," Spoelstra said. "They counted this team out. But they never estimated how close this group was as a family. Every single one of these players had to sacrifice something, either money, opportunity, minutes to be a part of this team. And it was all for a moment like this."
Miami won the title by defeating Oklahoma City in five games in the NBA Finals. It was the second title for the Heat and the first for James, who nodded and pointed to fans for much of the parade. James came to Miami after seven years in Cleveland, and after he and the Heat fell in the finals a year ago, he's finally a champion.
"It's good being around other people who support LeBron," said Doug Mead of Toledo, Ohio, who came to the parade with his family. "They really don't like him in Ohio. They celebrate when he loses."
Everyone was celebrating in Miami on Monday. Arison snapped and tweeted several photos during the parade. Riley shouted "Thank you" to fans over and over, as his wife, Chris, stood to his left and led "Let's go Heat" chants.
Some fans began lining up for spots along the parade route Sunday night.
"I've been a fan since '89. For me personally I feel like I'm part of the Heat family," said Dexter Pace of West Palm Beach, Fla. "I've been through the goods, the bads, the losses, the trades, and now it's like someone in my family has accomplished something. .... It's going to mean a lot for the city of Miami, winning the championship."
As the event ended, Bosh thanked both the fans inside the arena and those outside, saying that without them, nothing would be possible for the Heat.
"It feels right," Bosh said. "This is how it's supposed to be ... and I would like to do it all the time."