- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

12:07 p.m.

MIAMI — After an 18-year pursuit, the Miami Heat finally has brought the NBA championship trophy to South Florida.

The newly crowned world champions arrived home shortly before 7 a.m. today. Fans gave huge cheers and pressed up against a chain-link fence as the players’ plane taxied along the runway at Miami International Airport. Firetrucks shot streams of water over the aircraft.

Shaquille O’Neal hoisted the golden trophy with one hand and then cradled it as he walked off the plane, smiling and waving to fans. O’Neal had promised when he first arrived in Miami two years ago that he would bring home a championship.

Just hours earlier, the Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 95-92 in Game 6 of the NBA finals. Miami won the series 4-2, claiming the first title in franchise history.

Coach Pat Riley said the team drank 22 bottles of high-end Cristal champagne on the flight: “We’re not sleeping. We’ll sleep in the summertime.”

“I’m running on fumes right now. I’m so excited,” said center Alonzo Mourning, who has played through 13 seasons, two retirements and a serious kidney ailment for a championship.

The Heat then went to a waiting fleet of limousines and left about an hour after landing. Police said overnight festivities throughout the area remained peaceful.

Dwyane Wade had 36 points in the victory, one that made O’Neal a four-time world champion and gave Riley his fifth ring. Afterward, they celebrated in their locker room, spraying champagne in every direction, then moved the festivities to a Dallas hotel before flying home.

City officials say a victory parade is scheduled tentatively for tomorrow afternoon.

“Thank you for your support, your patience,” a champagne-soaked Mourning shouted when asked if he had a message to fans as he stood in the middle of the locker-room party in Dallas. “We love you all, and without you, we wouldn’t have gotten it done, baby.”

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