If it wasn’t official yet, it is now: It’s party time, Miami.
The Heat took a brisk victory lap through downtown Miami, a star-studded, confetti-chucking parade that quickly wound its way to the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Up next: A star-studded bash on the floor where the Heat captured its second league championship in six years.
With mascot Burnie leading the way in a fire engine’s cherry-picker, Heat players, coaches and staff -- along with their families -- stood atop a double-decker buses, waving to throngs of fans lined along Miami’s streets.
Concerns of rain were for naught. An expected thundershower didn’t materialized.
All the familiar faces were in tow: Kings LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Coach Erik Spoelstra and his boss Pat Riley, too.
Team owner Micky Arison sent out a picture over Twitter from his lofty perch.
The parade’s lineup: Burnie’s fire truck, two buses, a handful of convertibles, and a big rig. While expected to take upwards to 90 minutes, the celebration arrived at Bayside after just a half-hour. It went by so fast that some who had staked out spots since dawn barely could get a glimpse of their heroes.
Draped on the side of the buses: an enormous banner of the championship trophy, with the message, “Thanks Heat Fans.”
Wade got the honor (and responsibility) of carrying the actually trophy as he cruised through Miami. Wade had a tighter grip on the hardware than the Spanish soccer stars who let their Copa del Rey trophy slip through their fingers during a similar parade, ending up under the bus’ wheels.
The convoy began on Southwest Eighth Street, heading east then north on Brickell Avenue. By 11:15, it had already turned to the homestretch.
While cloud cover made the day a little cooler than it otherwise would be, the heat was a bit too much for some. There were reports of at least observers fainting along Biscayne Boulevard.
Thousands jammed onto the closed southbound Biscayne Boulevard lanes between Northeast Eighth and Sixth Streets.
They wore Heat championship shirts, Wade jerseys and inflatable crowns. And a chicken suit. And large snakes. And one brave man dressed up as a Knicks fan.
Some strayed the celebration a little early with Coronas or liquor out of a flask. But just a few. This crowd was full of kids and mothers with strollers.
At the intersection of Biscayne and Flagler Street, Calvin Darville, 25, was wearing a Miami Heat hat and a brand new championship T-shirt as he waited for the celebration parade to start.
He drove two hoarse from Fort Pierce last night to get here early this morning.
His favorite player is James although, as a point guard himself in pick up games with his friends, he also appreciates Mario Chalmers.
What would he say to LeBron haters?
“Kiss the ring.”
As the excitement level built for the Miami Heat’s celebratory jaunt down Biscayne Boulevard, downtown Miami has turned into a mob scene.
The crowds began gathering before 8 a.m., packing the Metromover and swarming to the Freedom Tower, the finish line of the nearly two-mile convoy.
Thousands of Heat fans — oft-maligned by the national media as front-running and late-arriving — rose early Monday to beat downtown traffic and stand in a light rain to get a prime spot outside AmericanAirlines Arena for the team’s championship parade.
Hundreds more were already filtering into the arena.
They wore white “Champions” shirts and waved green “Champions” signs. On Northeast Eighth Street, they cheered as if it were a game. A man on a megaphone started a “Let’s Go Heat!” chant.
Shannon Rodriguez, 25, from Coral Gables, said patience is key on a day like this.
“It’s my first time on Metromover,” she said. “It’s a little bit of an overwhelming experience.”
Paul Landers, 48, left Lake Worth at 6:30 a.m. with his son Matt, 17, and a neighbor to make it to the Triple-A by 9:30 for the post-parade celebration.
“It’s unbelievable how much the negativity surrounding LeBron has changed in just a few days but it’s great because it’s about time and it was so undeserved,” said Landers, an insurance compliance coordinator.
Fans who wanted seats on Biscayne Boulevard in front of the arena had to get there early Monday.
Donnie Martin made it with his son, brother and a niece and nephew decked out in black Heat gear by 6:15 a.m. to a spot where they plopped down some lawn chairs.
“We’re the best fans in the world,” said Marin, a 42-year-old Miami-Dade schools security monitor.
Just a few feet over, Lismeilyn Machado, her boyfriend and best friend held up three-foot-tall styrofoam Larry O’Brien trophies her father made the night the Heat won the championship.
She said the trophies, covered in gold glitter and adorned with Heat flaming basketballs took two and a half, each to make.
“It’s awesome,” Machado, a 19-year-old Miami-Dade College student, shouted over the siren of a passing Miami-Dade Fire Rescue truck, as firefighters tried to pump up the crowd.
Several people brought the family dog along for the parade. Only one man brought his snakes — two rescued boa constrictors.
“They needed a little exercise,” said the handler, who calls himself Fang Daddy. “And they wanted to support the Heat.”
One of the boa constrictors is albino — or all white. He calls him the “White Heat.”
Pastor Chris Atwood and his wife Jenn spent the morning spray painting a sign to hang about First Presbyterian Church on Brickell Avenue.
“We want to show that this church supports the community,” Jenn Atwood said.
Their sign read “Jesus loves the Heat,” with “and OKC too.”
“We don’t believe Jesus has a favorite team,” she said laughing.
She said she was struck by how much the game and parade brought the city together.
“It brought so many people together and that’s what the church is about too,” she said.
It also brought about some heat-related illnesses. A fire-rescue spokesman Carroll said earlier some 50 paramedics on scooters, foot and rescue units will be along the route. The department is encouraging fans to stay hydrated and bring their own drinks to the event.
For their fans, the Miami Heat is also proving free water stations set up along the way which will be manned by the fire department.
Now that the parade has ended, all eyes will be on the interior of the AmericanAirlines, where celebration is planned.
Details of the show have been kept under wraps. Some local celebrities and dignitaries may take part. Other who might appear are Julia Dale, the 11-year-old from Broward girl who sang the national anthem at the last two homes games of the NBA Finals. Team owner Micky Arison has called her “a good luck charm.”