<
>

Heat return to Miami with title, plan parade Friday

MIAMI -- The Miami Heat began a well-deserved break Wednesday after their triumphant return to South Florida with the NBA championship trophy in tow.

The Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 95-92 in Game 6 Tuesday for the 18-year-old franchise's first title.

Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, center Shaquille O'Neal and the other Heat members arrived at Miami International Airport shortly before
7 a.m., just hours after noisy but peaceful celebrations sprung up
in South Beach, Little Havana and Hialeah.

Lines of cars rolled slowly though streets, horns honking as passengers leaned out of windows to cheer along with throngs of
onlookers who banged pots and pans, danced and waved signs. No
arrests were reported.

"It's just fantastic, fantastic," Heat owner Micky Arison told
reporters after arriving. "Everything we heard about the reaction
from Miami have been tremendous. The fans have been great. Gracias,
Miami."

More parties were being scheduled. The championship parade
envisioned 11 years ago by Pat Riley, Heat coach and president, was
set for Friday at 2 p.m. in downtown Miami. Heat players also were
expected to attend a party Friday at Mansion, a nightclub on trendy
South Beach.

"I'm going to live it up," Wade said, "because we deserve
it."

Francisco Saravia, a 34-year-old Miami biology teacher, started
his celebration Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena, where he watched
a live broadcast of the game with about 14,000 other fans. He ran
outside the arena after the game to exchange high-fives, then made
his way to the airport to await the team.

"It gives you a sense of pride, a sense of belonging to a
community that embraces the team," Saravia said.

At the airport, fans gave huge cheers and pressed up against a
chain link fence as the players' plane arrived. Fire trucks shot
streams of water over the aircraft as it taxied toward a hangar,
where a fleet of black limousines and sport utility vehicles waited
to carry the new champs home.

"It was great looking out the window, it was a great feeling to
see the fans," assistant coach Bob McAdoo said. "The pilot told
them to look out the window and they saw the crowd."

O'Neal hoisted the golden trophy with one hand and then cradled
it as he walked off the plane, smiling and waving. On his first
appearance in Miami after he was traded from Los Angeles two
summers ago, he promised he would bring a title -- and delivered.

Riley said the team drank 22 bottles of the high-end Cristal
champagne on the flight.

"I'm running on fumes right now," said center Alonzo Mourning,
who's played 13 seasons, interrupted twice by retirements to fight
a life-threatening kidney ailment, but is now a champion. "I'm so
excited."