Miami celebrates NBA title with parade
By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports
Shaquille O'Neal had the microphone, which meant the public address announcer had little chance of getting a word in edgewise.
This was Shaq's moment, the one he promised two years ago. He rapped. He led cheers. He chanted "one more year" to Alonzo Mourning, who'll contemplate retirement. And he wasn't done, either.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," O'Neal said when someone tried to interrupt him as the Miami Heat's championship rally started Friday afternoon. "We all know Coach Riley's a great motivator. Who wants to see Coach Riley dance? Who wants to see Coach Riley dance? Give me some, Riley!"
With that, Pat Riley danced.
Miami's newly crowned NBA champions hoisted the trophy in South Florida on Friday in front of an estimated 250,000 fans, fulfilling an 11-year quest by Riley and the vow O'Neal made when, as his first formal act as a member of the Heat, he said, "I will bring a championship to Miami."
That championship is here, after the Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games for the title.
"That's something you can't experience until you win it all," finals MVP Dwyane Wade said after the parade. "Our fans have been great. That experience right there was, just like Zo said, overwhelming. I wanted to go again."
Maybe he will — soon.
While Friday was about celebrating 2006, questions are already being asked about 2007.
Specifically, can the Heat repeat?
"Yes, because Dwyane Wade keeps getting better," said Laurenn Webster, 19, a student from Coral Gables.
"And he's already the best," chimed in twin sister Lindsay, who donned a new Wade jersey at the parade.
Barring unforeseen shake-ups, most of this team is coming back, so repeat talk is inevitable.
Wade and O'Neal are likely to be under contract here four more seasons; that's how long O'Neal has left on his deal, and Wade becomes eligible July 1 for a long-term extension that will pay him at least $75 million.
The other starters — Udonis Haslem, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams — all have multiyear deals still in place; Williams, however, will decide next week when to schedule surgery to relieve tendinitis in his knee.
"I don't want to," Williams said, "but I told the doctor today I'm going to let him know when I can do it."
James Posey, who hit some big shots in the Game 6 clincher and emerged as a huge spark in the playoff run, can choose to become a free agent, but may return. Gary Payton has repeatedly said he plans to re-sign, saying he spent 16 years chasing a title — and now wants to defend one.
Riley and Mourning aren't so certain.
Riley, 61, acknowledges the season drained him; when a rumor he was stepping aside popped up in April, he issued a terse statement vowing to return, but was largely noncommittal when the subject came up Friday.
"Don't ask me that," Riley said. "Next. Please. I love you — but I can't answer that right now."
And Mourning clearly can still play, given his eight-point, six-rebound, five-block, all-dramatic effort in the Game 6 clincher over the Mavericks. He hasn't made any plan official, and given how valuable he was when O'Neal was in foul trouble or injured this season, Miami may try to coax the fan favorite into another return.
"Obviously, this would be the best way to go out — on top," Mourning said. "It truly would. At the same time, everybody is talking about we've got to defend our title."
The festivities started with a parade and ended with a rally outside the AmericanAirlines Arena — where a huge team picture with the word "Champions" across the front was unveiled during the party.
Some fans arrived in the early morning hours, ensuring they'd get a good look as the team passed by.
"The best. The best," said Heat owner Micky Arison, as his son, Nicholas, cradled the trophy along the route. "It's unbelievable."
There was a large police presence — standard for an event of this magnitude — but plans were not affected by Thursday's arrests of seven men accused of plotting a terror attack against Chicago's Sears Tower and a federal building in Miami. Most of the arrests took place in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood.
No arrests were reported; 65 people suffered heat-related problems, police said.
"Heat fans conducted themselves extremely well throughout the playoffs and the championship and the parade today," Miami Police spokesman Delrish Moss said. "It's a model that all cities should strive for."
Fans waved Heat championship placards, strained for photos and pointed at the new championship banners hanging along the sides of Biscayne Boulevard — the major thoroughfare running through downtown.
After 18 years of waiting, the quest was finally over.
"This is the best," said Riley, now a seven-time NBA champion. "For so many reasons, it just is."