I live in Aventura, a city in the northeastern tip of Miami-Dade County. While the US Post Office refuses to officially recognize us, we exist, complete with our own police force and city bureaucracy. I offer these facts to verify my official status as a South Floridian, a person living in Miami or Aventura, depending on your point of view.
In addition to the weather, one of the major benefits Floridians enjoy is our basketball team—the Miami Heat. I used to take my daughter to heat games, but that was when she was younger and it was possible to score a good ticket (legally) on the Heat Ticket Exchange for anywhere between eighty and a hundred bucks. Those days are gone, but I’m no less enthusiastic. Watching the games at home is just as much fun, now that we have big TV screens.
The Heat Organization is one of the finest cultures ever created in the world. It starts at the top with team president Pat Riley and trickles down. The players and coaches don’t give lip service to values like diligent practice in the gym and on the court, accountability, community service, sacrifice, and unselfishness. These men live those values every minute of their lives. You don’t read about Heat players racking up DUI tickets, using drugs, beating up wives or girlfriends, bullying, or any of the insane behavior associated with highly paid professional athletes. It doesn’t happen in the Heat organization despite the constant pressure of high expectations, criticism, and scrutiny the players and coaches live with. These men are role models. They love and support one another, and enjoy coming to work every day.
When one of the Heat’s high draft picks could not stop smoking marijuana, the team traded him. Now that same guy is back, playing better for less money, minus the marijuana, plus character and maturity developed in the Heat family atmosphere.
I hope the Heat wins a third consecutive championship, but if they don’t, I’ll still love every one of them. How could you not love these guys? Each player has a unique story of overcoming obstacles, building character, and ascending into the rarefied air of Heat team membership. Udonis Haslem is one of these stories. Despite an outstanding high school and college basketball career, no NBA team drafted him. He played for a year in France, hated it, but still played well enough to try out for the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Haslem came to the Heat training camp 25 pounds lighter, made the team, and hasn’t looked back in eleven seasons.
Win or lose—take a lesson from the Heat players and organization, among the best in the world.