MIAMI – Chris Bosh held the NBA championship trophy, LeBron James stood atop a double-decker bus with a cigar in his mouth and Chris Andersen flapped his arms in a nod to his “Birdman” moniker.
The NBA champion Miami Heat were in quite a mood to party on Monday.
Players, families, staff members and friends crammed buses, flatbed trucks and cars for the parade honoring the Heat’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and with it the NBA championship.
The caravan snaked its way through downtown Miami before a huge crowd of fans. Some 400,000 people were expected on the hot, steamy morning, with the heat index reaching the mid-90s by 11 a.m.
Several players held super-soaker squirt guns and sprayed water on fans below, confetti blew through the air and dotted the streets and bands blared as the team rolled past with horns honking.
Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley stood in the front of one bus, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – his championship cap turned backward – waved and clapped at fans and Dwyane Wade pointed at people along the route.
A rally inside the team’s home arena was held later Monday afternoon.
One vehicle carried a number of uniformed military personnel. The Heat have honored members of the military before every home game in Miami for the past several seasons.
Police reported no major problems early on. Bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs were spotted working their way through the crowd. City officials banned fans from carrying backpacks, though several were spotted along the route, and some people were searched randomly for security reasons. The huge crowds and parking difficulty did not seem to take away from the fans’ celebratory mood.
“It’s the excitement of something that doesn’t come around too often, even though we’ve been lucky to experience it two years in a row,” said Heat fan Blake Thames, who made the trip down from Palm Beach County.
Some fans began arriving before sunrise Monday and traffic into downtown was very heavy with people hoping to get close enough for a glimpse of the celebration.
Miami won the third NBA title in franchise history with the Game 7 victory over the Spurs Thursday night in the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Associated Press Writers Jennifer Kay and Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.
*MAGICAL MOMENT: NBA champion Miami Heat forward LeBron James, center, savors the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy with teammates Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh during the victory celebration on Monday at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami.