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Excited fans cheer for the Miami Heat Monday as Burnie and several cars pass by. The Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday to win the NBA finals.
After the Miami Heat celebrated an NBA Championship with a parade and a celebration at the AmericanAirlines Arena, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra opened up about a pact he and his team made before the playoffs started.
Spoelstra gave the Heat a replica of the Larry O'Brien Trophy made of black molded rubber, and had each player sign it. "It was a covenant that we made to each other, the coaching staff and the players, that we would commit to a handful of things each and we would say them in front of each other and if didn't do those things, we would not have a real opportunity to win and play for the title," Spoelstra told the Miami Herald on Monday.
The team made a notch in the trophy after each playoff victory. This signed replica of the prize given each year to the NBA champs was kept a secret, so much so that not even team president Pat Riley knew about it.
"Nobody, not even Pat knew about it," said Finals MVP LeBron James. "[Spoelstra] wanted to keep it between us. It was a testament to one another and didn’t have anything to do with anyone else. It helped you refocus and let you know why you were here and playing for one another."
The players treated the trophy like something sacred. "When you write your name on something, it's officially a contract," Chris Bosh said. "I kept respect for that because we understood how serious it was. Just visually seeing that, it was like, 'OK, I'm going to take this seriously and I'm not going to tell anybody.'"
According to the Herald, the trophy was inscribed with the words "all in," "togetherness," and "toughness," the team's unofficial mottoes.
"We signed our names to guarantee we would bring those things to the table," Spoelstra said. "And when we weren’t, that trophy would come out and we would remind ourselves we signed our name and were not being true to that."
It was a move straight out of the Pat Riley playbook. When Spoelstra's mentor was head coach during the Heat's 2006 championship run, Riley produced thousands of little cards that read "15 Strong" for his players to place in a pen with his own championship rings. The Heat kept the pen in the locker room throughout the playoffs, covering it up when anyone besides players and coaches entered the locker room.
Putting the last notch in the trophy became the Heat's all-encompassing goal. "We had to see 16 of those notches before we could even get happy," Dwyane Wade said. "In the locker room, we put that last notch on there, everybody started screaming and yelling."
For two years, Spoelstra's detractors longed for Riley to return to the bench and coach the Heat. Little did they know that Spoelstra had been using one of Riley's best tricks to motivate the Heat to give their fans the championship they craved.