Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was celebration day in the 305 Monday as the Miami Heat partied with thousands of their closest friends inside and outside the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Inside the AAA, the fans were packed in starting at 9:30 a.m. for a championship celebration culmination that featured most of the Heat’s players and coaches getting a chance to address the fans with the NBA Championship trophy on the stage.
“It feels great,” said Heat power forward Udonis Haslem. “We really appreciate the fans; we appreciate the love. I’ve still got some more partying to do; I’m trying to keep it real.”
For Haslem and Dwyane Wade, it’s their second championship in as many years. For other players, like NBA veteran center Eddy Curry and rookie Terrel Harris, it was their first taste of being on top of the proverbial championship mountain.
“It was incredible to have my family here, a part of this, and have the Heat welcome me like this, it’s unbelievable,” Curry said.
Harris was a bit more comical with his analysis. “I’m lucky, I came to the right place didn’t I?” Harris said.
The announcers inside the arena had plenty of fun with the team, including second-year center Dexter Pittman. The nearly 7’ center was poked at for his play in the Eastern Conference semifinals when he threw a forearm into an Indiana Pacers player, drawing a flagrant foul and a suspension.
Over the p.a. system, Pittman was introduced saying, “if you need protection after this, he’ll be there.” Pittman took it in stride and focused on his place in the franchise.
“It was a great experience for me to come in here,” Pittman said. “I kind of feel spoiled, winning it in my second year. The older guys remind you, ‘I’ve been here 10, 9 years and you got yours in you second year.’”
And speaking of older players, the venerable veteran of the team was 18-year-veteran Juwan Howard. He came onto the basketball scene as a vaunted member of the Fab Five at the University of Michigan more than 20 years ago and the 2012 championship was his first as either a collegiate or NBA star.
“I tell you one thing,” Howard said. “It’s awesome to win this for the city and the team because it’s first class here.”
Howard was originally going to be part of an original Big Three with the Heat years ago, but the NBA voided the trade. Howard was brought in with the current Big Three, to give veteran leadership on the court and in the locker room.
“As you can hear my voice now, I’m hoarse,” Howard said. “I was just trying to lift my teammates, just give them that spirit they need. I wanted to make sure I reaffirmed that we were going to win it. And sure enough, we did it. WE SHOCKED THE WORLD!!”
Howard also said the 2012 Heat championship was also for his former teammates in college.
“We did it for my boys,” said Howard. “We won it for the Michigan Fab Five as well. My boys, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson.”
Two Miami Heat players who played some of the biggest roles in the NBA Finals were Shane Battier and Mike Miller. Both were interviewed together during the celebration. The interview was to start with Battier, but the former Duke Blue Devil deferred to Miller.
“Start with this guy (pointing to Miller), we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for this guy playing NBA2K on the court,” Battier said.
“I don’t know, I just let it fly Miami, just let it fly,” Miller said. “My job is easy as long as I can stand up with these guys. Just have fun and enjoy the moment.”
Miller’s journey with the Heat hasn’t always been enjoyable. He’s battled through countless injuries and many were amazed that he was even on the court for the Heat in the NBA Finals. Through it all, Miller was just happy to not get left behind.
“Last year was tough on all of us, through it all the fans stayed behind us, the organization stuck with us,” Miller said. “I remember texting Pat Riley telling him ‘Thank you for not putting me behind the barn.”
Battier described the Heat and the Finals as “an unbelievable opportunity” and that the ultimate goal was “to call ourselves champs.”
“So when we were there (NBA Finals), we were going to go down swinging,” Battier said. “This is a true team, you look up and down the roster, and they’re really, really, really good. Thank you for the championship by the way (pointing to teammates). Everyone knew if we played our roles, we would win the championship.”
Heat starting point guard Mario Chalmers took his fair share of abuse this year from opponents and from his teammates. Chalmers was relegated to being “little brother” in the starting lineup, but he didn’t let it get him down throughout the season.
“It’s tough sometimes, but you know, you gotta keep fighting,” Chalmers said of being the little brother of the roster.
Of course Chalmers is going to keep the tradition going as he’s starting to target the junior point guard on the team, Norris Cole.
“Hey Norris, you’re about to go through the same thing I went through little bro,” Chalmers laughingly said. “As long as we keep winning, we’re going to keep doing it.”
Chris Bosh’s journey through the playoffs was one of epic highs and tough lows. He saw his son born and also had to deal with an injury that almost kept him from playing the rest of the series.
“It was really surreal (on seeing kid born) when I tell you as soon as we landed (in New York) I got the call from my wife telling me she might be in labor,” Bosh said. “Coach asked me if I was coming back? ‘I said I’d be back tomorrow.’”
Bosh was injured during opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals and missed the next nine games, coming back to help lead the Heat to close out the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“It was the biggest test in my life,” Bosh said of the injury. “At that moment, everything flashed before me and I wasn’t sure if I was going to play again. I jure remember telling my teammates to keep it going and I’d be back to play again. It meant everything to me.”
LeBron James jokingly nicknamed the Heat the Heatles in 2010 because no matter where they played, the team sold out the arena. It was always a show that even opposing fans didn’t want to miss.
“I knew from day one anytime we hit the road people came to see us play,” LeBron said. “I heard it all. But at the end of the day, they came to use perform they came to see us live, so I called us the Heatles.”
For LeBron, he considers the moment when the clock read 0:00 at the end of Game 5 to be the top moment in an already Hall of Fame career.
“It’s the best feeling I have ever had in my basketball career,” James said. “This was my dream right here, to hoist that Larry O’Brien trophy, hug it, grab it, never let it go. This is unbelievable.”
The Big Three had a message for the fans to wind out the celebrations saying that they were the real reasons the team made it to the NBA Finals and won the franchise’s second championship in six years.
As for the Heat’s plans next year, they and their fans would like to do it all over again.
“It feels right, it fits me,” Bosh said. “I would like to do it all the time.”
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