Over the last few years, the scene in Downtown Miami on a Heat game night hasn't been anything special. You know that something is going on because the parking lots get filled and the area around the arena has people scattered all over the place. Still though, the feeling that you'd get when walking up to the AAA was nothing special..
It wasn't that long ago when things were a lot different down here. Everything on a gameday had a different feel to it. From waking up in the morning to watching the game that night, there was an electricity in the air that had all of Miami catching ‘Heat fever'.
While the excitement all over town was pretty awesome, the atmosphere around the arena is something that you had to experience for yourself. No matter which direction you looked in there would be Heat shirts, jerseys, flags and anything else you can think of that people can wear to show their support.
The City of Miami has always held a special bond with its basketball team that really cemented during the glory days of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. The bond that was built in the 90's held strong during the rebuilding years earlier this decade, but everything would get considerably better in 2003.
After back-to-back losing seasons, the Heat used their lottery pick on Dwyane Wade and changed the face of the franchise forever. The next year Pat Riley traded for Shaquille O'Neal and for the first time in its history, the Heat and its fans had a true superstar to go along with budding young stud D-Wade, and the fans responded in a big way.
Every time the Heat had a home game the downtown-Bayside area would be a party zone. There would be DJ's, live music, performers, games and plenty of other stuff going on outside the AAA. Beyond the ‘yard' of the arena, the streets would be filled with people either in Heat clothes or dressed like they were going to the club.
The Heat were the hot topic all over town for the better part of 3 years, and despite struggling mightily through a 15-win season in 2008, the fans of Miami still showed up to support their team, averaging the 8th highest attendance in the league that year.
After the hype of the mid-2000's team died down, so did the fever. That's just one of the drawbacks of playing in a town like Miami...but that door swings both ways. As fun and crazy as it got around here 5-6 years ago, that is nothing compared what we're going to see in the coming seasons.
ESPN, TNT, The NBA Network...they are going to be all over the Heat. With all the ‘love' and attention this team is going to get nationally, they are going to be one of the popular kids in professional sports. In a town that loves to be fashionable and cool, Miami is going to have the trendy topic in the NBA playing in their backyard.
Needless to say, the entire region of South Florida is going to be coming down with a severe case of that ‘Heat fever' I mentioned earlier. Downtown is going to be Heat Party Central for around 50 nights every basketball season, and those kind of nights are exactly what this town is good at.
Now I know this part is a stretch, but bear with me... bloggers can dream too. With the consistent flow of fans who have a tendency for pre and post-game partying, the atmosphere around the AAA on gamedays could be something that becomes a tradition.
I think of the street festivals that go on outside of Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park leading up to games. Combine that with some Miami style, Latin flavor outdoor partying and throw in a red carpet for the celebs that call Miami home, or the ones who will be coming to town just to see our Miami Thrice. All those things rolled into one is what Heat fans could very well have to look forward to.
One thing that I can say for sure is that starting this season, going to see D-Wade, LeBron and the Heat is going to be much more then going to an NBA game; it's going to be an experience. The electricity, atmosphere, ambiance and all that stuff...from the moment you get out of your car and walk to the arena, to when you get goosebumps during the pre-game intros when Mike B asks your to ‘stand up and make some noise', it's all going to be something special that I hope each and every one of you Heat fans can truly appreciate.