Miami Heat, Fans Celebrate Championship at Victory Parade, Rally

Fans show up early to grab prime spots for Heat parade

For the second year in a row, Heat fans thronged to downtown Miami Monday to celebrate the team's 2013 NBA Championship with a victory parade and rally.

Players rode double-decker buses down the confetti-strewn streets that were packed with fans, many of whom had arrived before the sun was up to grab a front row seat.

LeBron James kept a cigar in his mouth as he waved to fans from atop one bus as the team made their way to AmericanAirlines Arena.

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"All the fans that we're seeing here who supported us throughout the whole season, this is the least we could do is ride through the city and show our appreciation," James said. "It hasn't hit me yet, this is unbelievable to be a part of such a great franchise and to be able to go back-to-back champions, it's unbelievable.

"It's the ultimate, this is why I came down here, to be able to have a parade at the end of the year, I'm extremely blessed man, it don't get no better than this."

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Chris Bosh carried the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy on another bus. Dwyane Wade rode another with his children at his side. Other players used water guns to keep the crowd cool.

The parade, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., was delayed about a half an hour due to a brief shower. By 8 a.m., fans had begun filling in along the parade route and traffic backups were reported in surrounding areas.

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Fan Vernon Martin grabbed a chair just before 5 a.m. to get in position for the parade.

"We're major Heat fans, we knew the crowd would be out here, I want to be out to support our Miami Heat," Martin said. "It's special to see them win, especially for a second time."

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Team president Pat Riley, who said it was his ninth parade, said it was a great day for the team and city.

"It never gets old, the parade really is about history and you chronicle it and 20 years from now you'll be able to look back on it and really enjoy it," Riley said. "They're all good, but just because I'm a year older it makes it special, so I appreciate it more than ever."

One man from Kendall said he had to wait in traffic for two hours to get to the parade.

“It took me about two hours to get here but it was well worth it. I’m here to support the Miami Heat. Go Heat!” he said.

With temperatures expected to be in the upper 80s, it was a hot day to be outside, but Martin said he didn't expect the weather would keep the fans away.

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"It's about the Miami Heat, it's gonna be hot, we can take the heat," he said.

The parade route began at Southwest 8th Street and 2nd Avenue heading west on 8th Street to Brickell Avenue. It'll head north on Brickell then left on Biscayne Boulevard to the AmericanAirlines Arena.

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Southwest 8th Street was closed to cars at 9 a.m. and will reopen as soon as the tail of the parade passes.

An estimated 400,000 fans attended last year's victory parade and similar numbers were expected this year. Security was tight for the parade and Miami Police said no backpacks would be allowed during the celebration this year as a safety measure.

A fan named Renee and her family came from Cutler Bay and booked a hotel room Sunday night to ensure a good spot along the parade route.

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"We booked our hotel at the Hyatt, we came up last night so we could enjoy the parade this morning," she said. "We've had so much fun witnessing the victory, we are proud now to be Miami citizens."

While there were no major incidents, police officers were preoccupied with fans who brought backpacks despite authorities' requests to leave them at home.

Fan Diamond Giddarie said she brought a clear backpack so she could carry her things, but still comply with safety measures.

"True Heat fans watch the news and know what to do," she said.

Officials said it was impossible to check each bag, but undercover officers were on scene to monitor suspicious situations.

"We did our best. However, we had droves of people here so we couldn't check each backpack on an individual basis," Miami Police spokesman Freddie Cruz said. "Rest assured our undercover officers were monitoring each and every situation."

There was damage to at least one police vehicle by fans who got carried away trying to catch a glimpse of the NBA champions, but no one was arrested.

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Police also asked fans climbing a railroad crossing to get down, but plenty were still climbing up even after the parade was over.

The parade wound up around 1 p.m. and was followed by a private, ticketed rally inside the arena with the team. Only season ticket holders were allowed inside.

Inside the arena, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and city commissioners honored the team.

"We want to thank the Miami Heat, because not only have you brought Miami another championship, you have united this community and for that we thank you," Regalado told Riley. "Next year, repeat, repeat!"

"We'd like to think about doing that sir," Riley replied.

Miami-Dade commissioners also declared Monday as "Miami Heat 2013 NBA Champions Day."

"Miami parties better than any city in the world," Head coach Erik Spoelstra said, as he praised his team and the fans for stricking by them as they battled the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs in their final two series.

"We could not have done those two Game 7s without your support here at home," Spoelstra said.

"This is a blessing just to share this moment with some of the greatest guys, greatest teammates and more importantly my brothers I'm honored to be in this position right now," Juwan Howard said. "Miami we couldn't have did it without you, thank you Miami."

PHOTOS: The Heat Rally Inside the AmericanAirlines Arena

"This is the hardest working team in sports, not just basketball in every sport," James Jones said. we're gonna come back next year better than we were this year, we're going for three in a row."

Chris "Birdman" Andersen was also thinking about taking things to the next level.

"Let's try to get a three-peat next year!" Andersen said.

"To be here celebrating my third championship, who woulda thought it?" Wade told the crowd inside the arena." This one is special obviously because I know the category that it puts me in, I know how hard it was to get to this point. We had a lot of ups and downs as a franchise since I been here so to now be here celebrating our third championship with you guys, it's just phenomenal."

Last to speak at the rally was LeBron, who talked about playing Game 6 against the Spurs without a headband.

"It was an out of body experience for me," he said.

He also talked about his famous comments after winning his second NBA title.

"Like I said, I ain't got no worries, we ain't got no worries," LeBron said, before he had the crowd say it along with him.

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