400,000 Celebrate Heat Championship

400,000 Celebrate Heat Championship

(AP) Heat celebrate with parade through downtown Miami
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI
LeBron James stood atop a double-decker bus with a cigar in his mouth for the parade, then kissed the championship trophy when the party moved indoors. Shane Battier blew kisses to the crowd, Dwyane Wade raised three fingers aloft and Chris Andersen flapped his arms in a nod to his “Birdman” moniker.

By now, the NBA champion Miami Heat have figured out how to enjoy a party.

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. An estimated crowd of 400,000 turned out on a hot, steamy morning where the heat index reached the mid-90s by 11 a.m.

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, while Spoelstra–his championship cap turned backward–waved and clapped at fans, and Wade pointed at people along the route.

Wade said that without the fans, Miami wouldn’t have found a way to win the title.

When Riley got hired by the Heat, he talked at his introductory news conference about his vision of a parade down Biscayne Boulevard. It took Riley until 2006 to deliver on that hope, but now with three parades in eight seasons, the Heat are getting used to these celebrations.

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, needing a Game 7 to get it done. Wade and Udonis Haslem–a Miami native who said “this is what it’s all about”–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.

James was the series MVP for the second straight year, and won his fourth regular-season MVP award as well.

Miami needed to win Games 6 and 7 of the finals to capture the title, and needed a huge late comeback in Game 6 just to force the ultimate game. Down by five with less than a half-minute left in regulation, James and Ray Allen made 3-pointers–Allen’s coming with 5.2 seconds left–to force overtime, and the Heat ultimately prevailed to get into Game 7.

Along the parade route, 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, 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.

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.

Players spent the weekend celebrating. Some are planning to start vacations later this week, while others will remain in South Florida for at least a few more days.

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