As the Miami Heat's lead skyrocketed Thursday night from five just after halftime to an insurmountable 24 by the end of the third quarter, their fans outside the AmericanAirlines Arena decided it was time to celebrate the team's second NBA championship in six years.
The thousands gathered in bars, restaurants and a park near the arena screamed in joy late Thursday as the Heat dropped one three-point shot after another, using the fourth quarter to get an early start on their party as they watched their team coast to a 121-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat won the series 4-1.
The promise made to South Florida fans 23 months earlier when LeBron James and Chris Bosh added their talents to Dwyane Wade's had arrived.
"We're bringing the championship home to Miami. Lebron promised us a ring and he got us our ring," said Ivine Mulkey, 32.
Orlando Hernandez, 33, noted it had been a team effort, with major Game 5 contributions coming from supporting players Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier.
"This is the best game they've ever had — the best final. It's unbelievable how they stepped up. It's not just one person. It's everybody," Hernandez said.
As the game ended, the fans from the neighborhood bars pushed happily toward the arena, meeting those leaving the game to jump, whoop and holler. Championship shirts were already being sold and special editions of The Miami Herald were handed out.