MIAMI, Fla. — The last time the Miami Heat's Big 3 led a raucous pep rally inside the AmericanAirlines Arena two years ago, they vowed winning not one, but more than seven championships.
On Monday, the team and thousands of its fans were back at the scene to cash in on the first.
The team officially ended its NBA championship season on Monday with a street parade that winded through Miami's downtown streets and then later with a celebration rally where the players took turns thanking their fans.
The championship trophy became the centerpiece of Monday's festivities, a winning symbol that put a cap to almost two years of high-profile drama and two months of playoff intensity.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had," said LeBron James, the team's standout star and the league's most valuable player. "This was my dream, right here, to be able to hoist that Larry O'Brien Trophy up, hug it, grab it, never want to let it go."
CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE PARADE, PARTY (http://bit.ly/LwVxRh)
Dwyane Wade hugged the trophy and seemingly spoke on behalf of his teammate, coaches and fans who waited two years for the victory.
"Oh man, the joy that this trophy brings all of us is amazing," Wade said.
Hours before the 11 a.m. parade, thousands of Heat fans fought downtown traffic, paid up to $30 for coveted parking spaces and lined up along the two-mile parade route under threatening dark clouds.
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.
For Jonas Garcon, his wife Pamela and their two children — 12-year old Keenan and 4-year-old Jada — Monday's parade was a chance to celebrate and see their favorite basketball players up close.
"As a die-hard 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 to Miami from his Miramar home on Sunday to scout parade-watching locales and parking.
The parade itself featured a seemingly endless stream of ticker-tape and players appearing atop a series of double-decker buses.
Burnie, the mascot, was in the lead bus, which was followed by a bus carrying Heat president Pat Riley. The first player seen on a bus was Chris Bosh.
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.
Some of the biggest cheers came for Heat forward and Michigan native Shane Battier, who celebrated like a Miamian by banging a wooden spatula against a small frying pan.
When asked about the best thing about the parade, one fan couldn't just pick one thing. "A highlight? I can't pick a highlight. Seeing everyone and everything was a highlight," said Tashara Jones of Miami. "I wanted to support my Heat. This was great."
Fans also cheered loudly for Mike Miller, a former University of Florida player, who did the school's signature "Gator Chomp" as the red bus rolled down Biscayne Boulevard.
The short parade procession disappointed some fans who felt it was over too fast.