MIAMI Like clockwork the party made its way from the streets of downtown Miami to the arena. As the rally moved inside the AmericanAirlinesArena, Miami Heat’s D.J. Irie, led the crowd in a “3-0-5! 3-0-5!” chant even though Mike Miller, James Jones and Udonis Haslem live in the 9-5-4.
The first six rows of floor seating remained open for families and friends of those on the parade route.
The parade started on time with Miami Heat players appearing in a series of double-decker buses. Burnie, the mascot, was in the lead bus, which was followed by a bus carrying Pat Riley. The first player seen on a bus is Chris Bosh.
LeBron James was in the last of about a half-dozen red buses and was spotted taking his own photo in between waving to fans gathered at the starting point of the parade.
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As the caravan, which includes police and fire vehicle from several city agencies in Miami-Dade County, wound its way along the 2-mile parade route fans rushed down back streets to catch up.
The celebration even seemed to brighten the weather — with the sun breaking through previously dark clouds.
Hours before the 11 a.m. Miami Heat championship parade was scheduled to start today, hundreds of fans had already fought downtown traffic, paid up to $ 30 for coveted parking spaces and lined up along the two-mile parade route under threatening dark clouds.
A crowd had amassed in front of the AmericanAirlinesArena where the parade will end and a rally will begin inside.
At some prime spots along the parade, fans stood four-people deep. They came dressed up with shirts and hats proclaiming their team the world champions, while others carried signs that said the same.
Those with pots and pans were also lined up.
Street vendors hawked T-shirts, barbecue, drinks and rain ponchos. Some were also selling tickets to the indoor rally.
One of the youngest Heat fans in attendance Monday may have been 2-month-old Jessie Martinez, who was nestled in his stroller near Bayfront Park enjoying a bottle before the parade began.
“I don’t know if he’s the youngest. I’ve seen a lot of strollers,” laughed Jessie’s father, Jesus Martinez of Homestead. “We came six years ago when they won. I just feel it’s important for the community to appreciate what we have on our team.”
Jesus Martinez was joined by his wife Lynn Martinez, and daughters Cheyenne, 8, and Esmeralda, 2. “This is better than summer camp,” Cheyenne said.
Police closed Southwest Eighth Street at Southwest First Avenue about 10 a.m.
The parade began at Southwest Eighth and Southwest First Avenue, headed east and turned north onto Brickell Avenue. Attendees crossed the bridge that spans the Miami River, continued north on Biscayne Boulevard and took the party into the Heat’s house, AmericanAirlinesArena.
The parade is to celebrate the Miami Heat’s 2012 NBA Championship.
For many of the fans who showed up early, the parade is a culmination of two months of nervously watching their team do battle during the playoffs.
“As a fan, it was one of the grueling things I had to endure. The playoffs feel like they started a year ago,” said Hugo Mornelo, who sat with his family earlier today at the mouth of the parade. “Now it’s time to relax and celebrate.”
For Jonas Garcon, his wife Pamela and their two children — 12-year old Keenan and 4-year-old Jada, the parade was a chance to celebrate and see their favorite basketball players up close.
“As a diehard Heat fan, you can understand the passion of the players and all the trials the team had to go through,” said Garcon, who said he drove down to Miami from his Miramar home on Sunday to scout parade-watching locales and parking. “This whole thing has been a mountain climb and the team has brought so much joy to the city. With the economy in a downward spiral, this is something good. This is positive.”
Added Keenan, “I can’t wait to see LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and the team. I’m going to experience them for the first time.”
Staff writer Ira Winderman contributed to this report.