A New Beginning
By Christina De Nicola
Miami, 6/9 - Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James received a hero's welcome Friday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
More than 13,000 fans attended the free event, which was announced earlier in the day. Thousands more watched live footage outside on MiamiMediaMesh.
The event featured the HEAT's free-agent re-signee and signees greeting fans and answering questions in the lower bowl.
Decked in HEAT uniforms, the trio entered a stage-complete with smoke and colorful lighting- via a forklift, and proceeded to shake fans' hands down a runway.
Spotlights were shown on Micky Arison, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, part of the group that traveled around the country to woo the trio that has come to be known as "Miami Thrice."
After receiving a standing ovation, Wade, Bosh and James received keys to the city and county.
Fans waved "Yes. We. Did." Posters and moved their clackers, both of which were handed out upon entrance into the arena.
"It's been exciting. It's been nerve-racking. I've been scared at times. I've been afraid. But at the same time I've accepted the challenge to move on. And I feel great," James said. "I feel great now and the fans and this organization have put me back in a family-oriented place where I've always been."
Bosh momentarily got the crowd to stop its chants of "Beat L.A." when he spoke a few lines in Spanish upon request from José Pañeda, the Spanish voice of the HEAT.
He would goon to express how lucky he feels for the opportunity to play in Miami, somewhere he can get cafecito on Calle Ocho.
"When I get are bound, I got LeBron on my left I can outlet to, and I have D-Wade on my right. Like a video game," he said. "I'm lucky. And you know what, everybody's been really receptive here. Thank you for coming out on such short notice, like you said before. This is amazing."
Last week while Riley courted James, nothing was guaranteed.
Flash had yet to sign, and Burnie was outside the AAA waiting for his announcement.
The Hall of Fame coach said that what struck James most during their three-hour meeting was the sense of family that the HEAT organization represents. And the championship rings.
Arison's son, Nick, has been around the team since he was 14. Spoelstra has worked with Riley for 15 years.
"And I think he understood that this is a group. This really is stability and it's about a family," Riley said. "So I think that more than anything else, this is what I thought about when I walked out there tonight."
Spoelstra admitted during the press conference that the plan to acquire all three superstars had been in place for a couple of years.
"We all knew about the plan," he said. "Probably more than anything, the single thing I've learned from Pat: Think big. He's been talking about the Triple Play. We used to laugh and sometimes our minds would wander. You start to get excited about it."
Now, with it a reality, the HEAT's head coach wishes he could get the players on the practice court for plays he has already drawn up.
Until then, Miami still has a roster to fill.
Talks continue with free agent Udonis Haslem, who has played his seven NBA seasons with the HEAT.
"I have a very good feeling that we're going to be able to do something to have UD consider," Riley said of the Miami native. "Again, he's like Zo. He's part of being an anchor here. So we'll do everything we can."
But the theme of the night was all about winning.
James tantalized the crowd with banter of possibly seven NBA championships on the way. Wade called Miami the new Hollywood. Bosh said he didn't mind other teams gunning for the HEAT.
"We're here to win a championship. We're not here to sell jerseys. We're not here to pump up ratings. You know, you don't make a decision like this," Wade said.
"LeBron didn't make a decision to leave his hometown. Chris didn't make a decision to leave Toronto to come here just to get out of the first round. Our goal is to win championships. If we don't do that, we're going to be harder on ourselves than you all can be on us."