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Miami streets were full of fans as the Miami Heat players waved from the top of red buses.
The key to coming through in the NBA Finals, Mike Miller and Shane Battier agreed, was not being afraid to shoot for a championship from downtown.
At the Miami Heat’s 2012 championship celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena Monday, an emcee pointed out that nobody in NBA history had come off the bench to make seven 3-pointers in the Finals until Miller, 32, did so in the clinching Game 5. How did he do it?
“I don’t know. Let it fly, Miami, let it fly,” said the Heat guard, who scored 23 points while making 7 of 8 shots from beyond the arc in the game.
Three games earlier, with Miami down 1-0 in the series in Oklahoma City, Battier made 5 of 7 threes. That was the third straight game he made at least four 3-pointers, after struggling with them in the regular season.
Asked how he came through in the series, Battier sided with Miller.
“Like Mike said, let if fly. The NBA Finals are such an unbelievable opportunity. It’s the reason why every one of us are here, to have a chance to win the championship,” said Battier, a 33-year-old small forward. “And once we got a chance to call ourselves champs, we weren’t going to let that opportunity go. And so when you’re there, we were going to down swinging. So you got your shot, take it, you got the play, make it, and we would have no regrets either way.”
While most of the attention was on the Big Three Monday, Miami’s role players also got their turn in the spotlight as the team and city reveled in the franchise’s second title, and first since 2006.
The win was a long time coming for Juwan Howard, 39, who finally won a championship after playing on nine NBA teams over 18 seasons.
“Miami! Ah, it feels great, man. Wow. I can’t believe I’m here. It was worth the wait,” Howard said. “But I tell you one thing – it’s awesome to win it for this city and for this organization, because this is truly first-class and I’m happy to be a part of it. But more importantly I’m happy to share it with my teammates. We are the 2012 NBA champions baby!”
Howard, the last active player from the University of Michigan’s Fab Five from the early 1990s, said he won this ring for them. The famed quintet reached the NCAA championship game in their two years together but fell short both times.
Howard only played sparingly this year, but said he tried to be a leader and give his teammates the spirit they needed.
“At times when they felt they were down, at times when we had a little doubt, I wanted to make sure that I reaffirmed that we were going to win it,” the power forward said. “And sure enough, we did it! We shocked the world!” he said, doing a dance move with his fists.
On the other end of the spectrum is point guard Mario Chalmers, 26. He is called the Heat’s “little brother,” as the Big Three is known for giving him instant, in-his-face feedback.
Chalmers said it’s tough dealing with the little bit of verbal abuse he gets sometimes.
“But you know, you got to keep fighting. That’s my motto – I keep fighting through everything,” he said.
Now Chalmers has begun yelling at Heat rookie Norris Cole.
“Hey Norris, you better go through the same thing I went through, little bro. As long as we keep winning, we going to keep doing it, though,” he said as Cole laughed.