Heat give Liebert family game tickets

MIAMI -- Christian Liebert's 8th birthday was a disaster.

The Miami Heat fixed it six weeks later.

Christian had plans to celebrate his birthday night of Oct. 22 at an NBA preseason game in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., watching his favorite player -- LeBron James -- and the Heat play against the Orlando Magic. He told his parents he didn't want a party, just tickets, and they obliged with ones near midcourt.

The seats would have been perfect. The game was never played. That was the contest canceled by slippery court conditions, and the boy went home in tears.

"We did not know what to do," the boy's mother, Christina Liebert, said.

The Heat did.

Moved by a letter his mother wrote about what her son felt like the night of the canceled game, team officials arranged for tickets for the Liebert family to see Saturday's game in Miami against the Atlanta Hawks, along with a hotel stay and some other souvenirs. The family sat courtside for a portion of the pregame, in the very seats the Heat players would occupy during the game. Several players and assistant coaches stopped to say hello, and Christian posed for some photos.

"If you had told me on Oct. 23 when we woke up that there would be a happy ending to this story, I would have been hard-pressed," Christina Liebert said. "For him, it's unbelievable."

A belated birthday present was worth the wait.

"Now it's like a big different story," Christian said on Saturday as he sat in the hotel lobby, before the family walked to the arena. "Exciting."

Christian asked for the tickets in June, long before James even joined the Heat. When that happened a month later, his excitement reached new heights.

So when there was no game that night, he was devastated.

"I just cried," Christian said.

No tears on Saturday, though.

He wore a Heat jersey with James' number, and carried proof of his devotion to the NBA's two-time reigning MVP -- a book report written last year, the first one he ever had to do in school.

"I am a Heat fan because they have Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James," Christian said. "They're three really good players."

His parents allow him to remain up until 10 p.m. on some game nights, so he can see as much Heat basketball as possible.

The kid's a fan -- but he's not necessarily sold yet on Miami's championship hopes.

Asked for a prediction on Saturday, Christian said he thinks it's shaping up to be another Celtics-Lakers finals in June. Still, he's going to have a story to tell when he returns to school on Monday.

"The fact there's a happy ending to our story, it's amazing," Christina Liebert said. "It really is. We are all Heat fans now. Diehards."