MIAMI – In the beginning, right from the beginning, it was like nothing you’ve ever seen.
That’s what you expect from the Heat come basketball season, of course. But who knew until they expect it of themselves everywhere else, too?
They rose up on a platform from under the stage Friday night for their introduction to 13,000 screaming fans at AmericanAirlines Arena, standing side-by-side, backs to the screaming crowd, not moving in their Heat uniforms like something out of a Vegas show. They held the pose.
Chris Bosh. Dwyane Wade. LeBron James.
Smoke swirled. Fireworks flew. Noise pounded. But what you noticed most was how much they embraced this moment as they broke the pose. Bosh began screaming. James began flexing his muscles.
There, in the middle, Wade began pointing at the crowd that totaled more than many Heat games the last few seasons. Wade began dancing. James joined him. And they all were laughing, going down a runway, low-fiving fans.
You’ve never seen any entrance like this in the sober, often somber, don’t-make-a-spectacle-of- yourself world of sports. They couldn’t have entered as more of one on Friday.
It was fun and loud and brash and arrogant and dramatic and, my god, was a statement for what kind of a show has dropped into South Florida. And it never stopped, not for a moment, like when LeBron was asked about winning a title and he said, “Not one.”
“Not two …”
“Not three, four, not five, not six, not seven …”
By now, the crowd had gone from cheering to laughing to not quite knowing how to react to the party-line absurdity of the idea. Seven? Because that is absurd, isn’t it? Well?
Ladies and gentlemen, kiss your days of a basketball game being just a basketball game goodbye.
This will be a show. A zoo. A circus. In the best of every way possible if you’re a Heat fan.
“Every place is going to sell out when we come to town,” Wade said. “They can thank us now.”
Brash? Yep. True? That, too. Already, the Heat sold out of season tickets. The announcement by Wade and Bosh to join the Heat carried a day of national stories. LeBron’s announcement on ESPN drew higher TV ratings than Game 7 of last month’s NBA finals.
“The Partnership,” LeBron called their union Friday in a news conference after the grand entrance before fans. The Heat completed sign-and-trade deals with Cleveland and Toronto on Friday for their two newest superstars.
Others are coming. Udonis Haslem is negotiating to re-sign with the Heat. Mike Miller signed as a free agent. But it starts with these three.
“We all sacrificed money,” LeBron said. “We all sacrificed a lot of things. Money isn’t important. What we’re going to do on the basketball court is.”
“Everything is all about basketball, all about winning,” Bosh said. “If it was about money and numbers we’d all go back to our respective teams. I averaged my career best last year and nothing happened.”
“You’ve got three guys in their prime, decided not to wait until they’re older …”
Not everyone likes what’s happened. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert called James’ decision “cowardly.” Bulls player Joakim Noah called the Heat “Team Hollywood.” A reporter asked about Orlando questioning LeBron’s competitiveness.
“To hear my former owner’s comments, I know I made the right decision,” LeBron said.
As for Orlando, he said, “I like that. We’re going to put a lot of stuff in the locker room.”
Is the first season together a disappointment without a title?
“Yes,” Wade said.
These three had fun Friday. They danced. They laughed. Fans chanted “Beat L.A.” They became the biggest team in sports just by showing up.
And they haven’t even played a game.
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