CHICAGO -- Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman are co-recipients of the NBA Executive of the Year award for engineering overhauls that so far have propelled their teams to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The league announced the award Tuesday.
Riley and Forman each received 11 of a possible 30 votes from a panel of team executives, making this the first time the award has been shared since its inception for the 1972-73 season.
"To Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, thank you for deciding that this was the place you wanted to play, and to the entire Miami Heat team, [thank you] for making sacrifices to be part of something special," Riley said in a statement Wednesday, one of his rare public comments this season. "I am proud to be president of an organization that has been built to last and is first-class in every sense."
Riley not only convinced James and Bosh to join Miami and Wade to stay with the Heat -- but also got them all to leave more than $50 million over the lifetime of their new contracts on the bargaining table.
"What he did was unprecedented," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "There's nobody you'd rather have as a frontman for a franchise going out on those recruiting trips. I took so many notes during those trips because it was fascinating. If I was a player and I was sitting down in front of Pat, I'd have been asking, 'Can I ink it right now?'"
Riley's sharing the award with Forman, who said Tuesday he was "truly honored and unbelievably humbled."
It comes after he and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson oversaw a makeover that lifted the Bulls from 41 wins and back-to-back first-round playoff exits to a league-leading 62 victories. They fired Vinny Del Negro and replaced him with Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau. They also brought in Carlos Boozer and role players such as Kyle Korver to fill out the rotation after the "Big Three" joined in Miami. It helped, too, that Derrick Rose emerged as the league's youngest MVP.
"This is a team award," said Forman, in his 13th season with the Bulls and second as general manager. "Our entire front office -- from everybody involved -- has got a piece of it. I'm just happy that if there's votes given, the Chicago Bulls are getting votes. That means we're doing something right."
Ironically, Paxson finished third with three votes even though he and Forman basically work in tandem. San Antonio's R.C. Buford was fourth with two votes, and Oklahoma City's Sam Presti, New Jersey's Billy King and New York's Donnie Walsh received one vote each.
"[Paxson] and Gar have done a great job," Thibodeau said. "I wish they both shared the award, but I'm thrilled for both those guys -- and all our scouts and management team. Those guys have done a fabulous job."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.