MIAMI – Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” played during the trophy presentation here on Thursday for the second straight year, a song that is neither the preferred music of LeBron James nor the battle hymn of the Miami Heat.
The Boss is simply played for the boss.
Pat Riley has become something of a Springsteen groupie over the years, traveling the world to watch an aging icon perform. Nowhere, however, does Springsteen’s music sound better than when Riley is standing on the podium hoisting the Lawrence O’Brien trophy.
“Hell, I thought I was going to be gone in 2003,” said Riley, soaked with champagne inside the Heat locker room. “I did 30 years on the rock, OK? That’s a long time. I’m at an age now where I’m ready to fly off somewhere, but I’m not going to.
“The good Lord has blessed me with a team that has allowed me to grab onto His coattails. As long as they want to be together, I want to be here. It’s been an incredible experience. I thank (owner) Micky (Arison) from the bottom of my heart to allow me to do the things I could do to help make this thing great.”
Long before LeBron promised to bring multiple championships to Miami, Riley promised change when he took his talents to South Beach after a brief but successful run with the Knicks. Riley arrived in 1995 and instantly legitimized a young but floundering franchise and changed the culture.
Over the years, he made trades for Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal. He drafted Dwyane Wade and went all in during the wild free agent summer of 2010 by signing James and Chris Bosh. Despite a lot of heartache – eliminated three straight years by the Knicks and losing to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals – Riley and the Heat have been a smashing success.
LARRY W. SMITH/EPA
There are already predictions that the Heat will claim the 2014 NBA title and three-peat.
The franchise has won three championships dating back to 2006 and on Thursday James, Wade and Bosh secured the club’s second straight title. As much as LeBron will remain the big one that got away from the Knicks in 2010, having Riley resign following the 1994-95 season was just as devastating for the club.
Yes, with Patrick Ewing and Jeff Van Gundy, the Knicks were contenders in the ’90s and reached the 1999 NBA Finals. But over the past 13 years, the Knicks have won one – count’em one – playoff series. Over that same span, Miami has been to the Finals four times and has won three titles.