While the other members of the Big Three rode up front in a bus that had the championship trophy Monday, LeBron James stayed back on his own bus, soaking in the love from fans. He said the moment was a dream come true for him.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh thanked Miami for their support as they stood on a stage inside the AmericanAirlines Arena next to the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy to cap Monday's parade and celebration of the Heat's 2012 Championship.
"Without you all, without each and everyone person's support here and each and every person's support outside this stadium, we would be nothing without you guys, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts," Bosh said. "You guys have really made this journey special, and to go through this journey with such great guys, a great staff, it made it all the more memorable. and you know what, we are world champs."
"This one right here feels a lot sweeter, we've been through a lot as an organization, as a city," Wade said, comparing the 2012 win to the Heat's 2006 championship. "It means so much to us to be here to be able to celebrate this championship with this city and with this core of guys."
The sold-out bash inside the AAA followed a massive victory parade in downtown Miami.
"Heat spirit, that's right!" said Marilyn Fletcher, whose dog, Flex, was also wearing Heat swag for the parade.
Fans began lining up Sunday night to get a good spot along the route for the parade, which began at Southwest 8th Street and 2nd Avenue, headed east to Brickell Avenue and then north on Biscayne Boulevard.
By 10:30 a.m., Southwest 8th Street was closed, as double-decker buses carrying the players, team personnel and their families made their way to the parade's starting point.
Team owner Mickey Arison and President Pat Riley were on the first bus which followed a City of Miami Fire truck that carried Heat mascot Burnie.
Wade was on another bus with his family, girlfriend Gabrielle Union and the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Fans went wild when he raised the trophy in the air at one point.
"This is still Wade County," said Sophia Johnson.
James waved to fans from the back of another bus while Shane Battier banged on some pots and pans from another.
The weather was hot and cloudy, but the rain held off during the parade which began at 11 a.m. and ended just before noon. Fans got help with the hot temps from some of the players who sprayed them down with water guns from the buses.
The parade ended outside the AmericanAirlines Arena, where the team headed inside for a sold out private party and celebration.
Head Coach Erik Spoelstra was the first to address the crowd inside the arena, which danced to music from DJ Irie and was treated to Queen's "We Are The Champions" and a video showing highlights from the championship season.
"People from the outside criticized this team, didn't support this team, counted this team out, but they never estimated how close this team was as a family," Spoelstra said as he thanked the fans. "While other people counted us out, you all never did, we will always, always appreciate that."
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez proclaimed June 25 "Miami Heat 2012 Champions Day" while Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said they were gathered to "celebrate having the Heat in Miami."
Riley and Arison sported glasses as they too thanked the fans for their support.
"Thank you Miami, we love you," Arison said.
Miami native Udonis Haslem said he was changing his name from "Mr. Miami" to "Mr. Two-Time."
"It was a great season and we still got some more partying to do, I ain't finished," Haslem said.
Wade talked about why he decided to stay in the Magic City.
"My family is in Miami," he said.
When James was introduced, the crowd chanted "MVP, MVP!"
"This is the best feeling I've ever had," James said. "This is my dream right here, to be able to hoist that Larry O'Brien trophy."
Bosh said the team got a huge lift from the fans.
"We knew coming back here, playing in this building, I had to most confidence in the world they weren't gonna make it out of here," Bosh said. "We have the best fans in the world."
Early Monday, jubilant fans gathered around the AmericanAirlines Arena dressed in Heat gear and carrying signs in Spanish and English that read 'Champions."
"All the haters around the country just need to get used to this fact: the Heat are champions!" said Jo Rolle.
Nine-year-old Adrianna Familia got to her spot on Southwest 8th Street and 2nd Avenue at 6 a.m. She said she woke up at 4 a.m., and she's hoping one of the players will sign her hat.
"We woke up early because we knew there would a lot of people," she said.
She came with her grandparents and they brought chairs, an umbrella, a cooler and snacks.
Fans have flown in from all over the country to participate in the festivities.
"I have all my itinerary, I even bought some pots and pans myself, so I'm going a long way for that,” said Kimble Wright.
"I'm a Floridian so this was hugely exciting and what better way to spend a day than seeing Dwyane Wade and our championship team?" said fan Jodi Rosoff.
"The parade was awesome. I saw all the players and Miami should be so proud," said Yvette Ojeda.
Shortly after noon, Southwest 8th Street reopened for traffic as soon as the last of the parade passed.
The city added 160 police officers to secure the streets. Miami-Dade Transit also bulked up services on the Metromover and Metrorail, which will ran every 15 minutes to accommodate the fans.
James, Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games for the title.
James took MVP honors after his long-awaited first championship.
"I'm so happy for LeBron, because he silenced all the doubters," parade-goer Jesse Fernandez said.