heat-fan2_web.jpgMIAMI – Miami Heat fan Jhoan Rodriguez has been living it up big lately.

As a South Florida sports fan, he had the opportunity of a lifetime: spending a week with the Miami Heat.

Rodriguez recently won the ultimate National Basketball Association/Hewlett-Packard "Insider" Experience. The victory allowed him to travel with the team, sit courtside as they played against other teams, and even netted him a sit-down dinner with the coach.

As part of HP's recently announced relationship and partnership with the Heat and the NBA, the contest was designed to enhance the game experience for the millions of basketball fans in the league, according to the company website.

Rodriguez, 19, of  Sunrise, submitted an entry for the contest while watching a televised Heat game. He logged onto the official Heat website to enter, and uploaded a video on what he enjoyed about the Heat as a fan, creating a Hip-Hop song. He said he caught the eyes of those judging the contest in part by being one of the last entries of the dozens submitted. 

The whirlwind experience for Rodriguez began courtside when the Heat faced the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on Dec. 12. The week continued through Dec. 19. Throughout the week, he traveled to Tennessee for a road game as the Heat visited the Memphis Grizzlies.

A visit to Elvis Presley’s Graceland residence was also included. He took a tour of the AAA as well, and attended a Heat press conference. He also joined first-year Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra for a sit-down dinner.

He says sitting courtside and meeting the players were the two major highlights of his experience.

“The game is a lot more involved then what most fans see,” he said. “It is much more technical then what most would think, and the players put a lot more time into the game. I also thought the players would be bigger.”

He said the best part of the week, though, came in meeting one of his idols in former Heat player and fan favorite Alonzo Mourning. The two met at a Habitat for Humanity charity function during the week.

“He is a true ‘A’ class person and player,” Rodriguez said. “He brought so much to the game with his intensity and work ethic.”

Rodriguez, a Broward College student, said he hopes to finish studies for his associate’s degree in aeronautical science this summer, and he wants to become a commercial airline pilot in the future.

“We wanted to target the Miami area and market to create more diversity and we like that,” Hewlett-Packard Director of Multicultural Marketing Kathleen Haley said. “This contest is the first of its kind.”

Rodriguez also stocked up on a collection of several HP products, including: an HP Pavilion dv4z series mobility notebook, HP Photo smart C8180 all-in-one printer and an HP Photo smart M547 digital camera to help capture his behind-the-scenes experience.

He plans to use the technology to share blog postings and photos of the week on the HP insider website.

For more information or to learn about HP log onto www.thehpinsider.com or www.hp.com.


Photo: Jhoan Rodriguez