MIAMI – A celebration some 11 months in the making is on hold for now.
At least until further notice, and certainly until after Sunday night’s Game 6 of The Finals, which is shaping up as the Miami Heat’s (second to) last stand.
Down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks with the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the line, the Heat not only have to stave off elimination Sunday night at American Airlines Arena, they also have to save the financial bacon for local merchants here that have planned all year for a championship parade since the day the Heat’s Big 3 came together last summer.
That pressure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are feeling right now is very real, especially for the folks here in South Florida that are heavily invested in the lucrative residue that accompanies a title run.
There are more than just a few legacies riding on Game 6, as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald explains:
From T-shirt makers to nightclub owners to shaved-ice vendors to newspapers and radio stations to a West Miami-Dade botanica selling Heat-themed voodoo dolls, a broad slice of Miami’s economy has some skin in the game, with an impact that could stretch beyond just the immediate sugar high of a post-championship celebration.
“I hear all the excitement and anticipation,” said Tadd Schwartz, a public relations maven who represents the Miami Downtown Development Authority. “Everyone would want to attach their name to the Miami Heat in some way shape or form. All of this is good for Miami.”
And it all rests squarely on the shoulders of the Heat’s Three Kings. Without a title, there’ll be no championship parade, no celebratory blowouts at swanky hot spots, no ringing cash drawers at sports merchandising shops across South Florida and no commemorative insta-books reveling in the team’s achievement.
Back in 2006, after the Heat won its first and only championship, Miami — believe it or not — partied. Club Mansion threw a star-studded victory bash, with Heat owner Micky Arison toasting the revelers from the stage as VIP attendees sipped thousand-dollar bottles of champagne. Ocean Drive magazine hosted an exclusive celebratory dinner at pricey Prime 112 for Heat players and celebrities.
Then there the victory parade. A reported 200,000 fans packed Biscayne Boulevard to catch a glimpse of Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Pat Riley as they rolled by on a warm late-June day.
Five years later, it’s what everyone wants again.
But if there are ostentatious plans for a championship celebration (contingent on a championship, of course), the parties involved are doing a great job keeping quiet.
Perhaps not to jinx their chances (and after Game 5’s loss, a wise move), Heat officials had not made any formal overtures to the city regarding a parade as of Friday afternoon, and are not expected to do so unless and until the team wins at least three games in this series, said Ada Rojas, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s director of special events. An e-mail sent to The Opium Group, which owns Mansion and several other posh night spots, about pending Heat victory parties went unanswered Thursday.
And Lorrie-Ann Diaz, a spokeswoman for the Heat, sent a 10-word response when asked about the potential boon in Heat memorabilia: “If we win, we’ll talk about merchandising at that time.”
James and Wade obviously don’t need us to remind them how important Game 6 is. James called game 5 the “biggest of his life.” And Wade has been in this situation before, switching roles with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks in Game 6 five years ago when he and his Heat teammates were the ones with a chance to finish the series off on the opposing team’s floor.
Wade knows better than anyone else that will suit up Sunday night the added pressure that comes with this moment. He also understands better than most the intensity needed to push through moments like this. For that reason alone we’re expecting him to show up (sore hip be darned) in ways that you’d expect a Finals MVP to show up at the most crucial point in a season.
Really, he has no choice. Because all of Miami is counting on a Game 7!
Did someone say pressure?