MIAMI (AP) - Miami Heat fans swarmed from downtown bars and rushed cheering and screaming into the streets late Thursday after their team won its second straight NBA championship.
As the final seconds of the Heat’s 95-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs wound down, fans by the thousands streamed into the area surrounding the AmericanAirlines Arena to exchange high-fives and hugs, blow whistles and simply scream. Some climbed atop street signs and a railroad crossing.
Unlike last year’s final game blowout of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which ended a 4-1 Heat series win, the year’s decisive Game 7 was tight until the end, adding to the excitement when a late run by Miami finally put the Spurs away. Because the over-the-air, cable and satellite television signals weren’t quite synced, cheers would go up from one bar when the Heat hit a shot, followed a second or two later by cheers from another.
“It’s euphoria in the city of Miami,” said Alex Vailon, a 20-year-old Miami resident. “How many teams have took two in a row?”
Several, actually, but Miami fans were not interested in history lessons as their team celebrated its third NBA title in the last eight seasons. As with the Heat’s two previous titles, officials said the city’s celebration was generally peaceful _ police chased away a few celebrants who were jumping on top of limousines that were leaving the arena.
“This was by far the best (win),” said Gary Pollack, 58, who has had season tickets for 12 years and was inside the arena for the game. “San Antonio is an unbelievable team. I am so exhausted from the last two games, I feel like I played in them.”
A few miles away in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, thousands gathered in the streets to bang pots and pans _ a neighborhood tradition _ hold up Heat signs and chant “Let’s Go Heat!” People in the cars driving by rolled down their windows, stuck their bodies out and waved their hands and also banged their pots and pans. Men smoked cigars and almost everyone captured the cookware symphony on their cell phones.
“This is what we Latin people do,” said Carlos Gonzalez, 33, who was holding up a sign with the image of LeBron James’ head. “There’s no words to explain this. We’re going to party till the sun rises.”
Even children were taking part in the celebration.
Ernest Denis, 12, said he was feeling “a lot of rush and excitement.” He was banging the top of a pot with a spoon and wearing a James jersey.
He said he wanted “to make a lot of noise and alert everybody that the Heat won.”
Lt. Ignatius Carroll of the City of Miami Fire Department said early Friday that authorities had gotten no reports of major problems arising from the post-game celebrations. He said there had been no gun-related incidents as of 1:30 a.m., with the main problems earlier being fans jumping on cars and limousines outside the arena after the Heat won.
“It’s a very peaceful celebration,” Carroll said, adding that the heavy police presence near the arena helped maintain control.
Hundreds gathered around a van owned by Telemundo, the Spanish-language TV network, to catch white T-shirts with the Heat logo being thrown by a man on its roof.
Among them was Ernesto Lopez, 43, who caught two, one of which he immediately put on. He planned to share the other with family.
Even though he has been in the United States just three years, he said he was driven by “the emotion, the passion” of the final game to come out and celebrate.
“It’s important to say that San Antonio was good too,” he said. “But the Heat won and congratulations to us!”