Heat celebrate with parade through Miami

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Heat celebrate with parade through Miami

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- The NBA championship trophy was center stage, bathed in white light and sitting on a pedestal. And each Miami Heat player offered it a different greeting. Mike Miller bowed. Udonis Haslem kissed it three times. Chris Bosh hugged it, and LeBron James strolled past before waving at the crowd. Dwyane Wade did something different. In a nod to his preferred postgame fashion style throughout the playoffs, he emerged with a pair of faux eyeglasses and slipped the frames onto the neck of the trophy. Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team managing general partner Micky Arison all donned the black spectacles as well at various points during the party. The glasses were fake. The sentiments were all real. And with that, two years after Wade, James and Bosh opened their time together with a celebration, they got the party they really wanted on Monday. An estimated 400,000 people filled the streets of Miami for the Heat championship parade, and then 15,000 more got into the arena afterward for a long, loud reception for the NBA's new kings. "It's the best feeling I've ever had. ... 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," James said. During the parade, players and coaches were on double-decker buses with friends and family, most of them taking photos and video of the crowd. Other Heat staff were on flatbed trucks, as confetti fell and horns blared every step of the way. Wade cradled the championship trophy in his arms for much of the ride. "I appreciate all our fans for sticking with us," said the now two-time NBA champion Wade, adding, "Best fans in the world." And then the party moved inside, with a similar setup to the event that welcomed James and Bosh to Miami to play alongside Wade in July 2010. Music blared for nearly an hour as fans danced for joy, before the arena went dark briefly -- and the trophy was sneaked onto the stage. For nearly 90 minutes afterward, the Heat relived so many aspects of the season, from Haslem's flagrant foul against Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough in the Eastern Conference semifinals ("the greatest flagrant foul in team history," Heat broadcaster Eric Reid told the crowd) to countless highlights from the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, the Heat left few stones unturned. Juwan Howard -- the first member of Michigan's Fab Five to win an NBA title -- did the Cabbage Patch dance, as teammates broke into absolute hysterics, waving their arms in time with him. Mario Chalmers was asked about why Wade and James yell at him so much on the court, as a montage of some of their more fiery moments played on the giant video screens. And the Miami natives, Haslem and James Jones, got perhaps the loudest ovations of anyone outside of the finals MVP. "Feels great, man," said Haslem, who along with Wade is the lone holdover from Miami's 2006 championship club. "Changing my name from Mr. Miami to Mr. Two-Time. I ain't Mr. Miami no more. I'm Mr. Two-Time. ... It never gets old. But this one is more gratifying because of the way last season ended." Spoelstra had a similar sentiment, talking to the crowd about the team's commitment, especially after Miami lost last season's finals to Dallas. "People from the outside, they criticized this group, this team," Spoelstra said. "They counted this team out. But they never estimated how close this group was as a family. Every single one of these players had to sacrifice something, either money, opportunity, minutes to be a part of this dream. And it was all for a moment like this." After the celebrating was done, there was business. Wade reiterated that he would seek medical advice before committing to play with the Olympic team. Bosh -- who missed nine playoff games with a strained lower abdominal muscle -- said he was "all in, for now" on being part of the London Games. And Miller, who was hobbled by back and foot issues, said on Twitter he planned to meet with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green on Tuesday, presumably to get checked out and discuss options. Miami won the title by defeating Oklahoma City in five games in the NBA Finals. It was the second title for the Heat and the first for James, who nodded and pointed to fans for much of the parade. James came to Miami after seven years in Cleveland, and after he and the Heat fell in the finals a year ago, he's finally a champion. "It's good being around other people who support LeBron," said Doug Mead of Toledo, Ohio, who came to the parade with his family. "They really don't like him in Ohio. They celebrate when he loses." Everyone was celebrating in Miami on Monday. Arison snapped and tweeted several photos during the parade. Riley shouted "Thank you" to fans over and over, as his wife, Chris, stood to his left and led "Let's go Heat" chants. Some fans began lining up for spots along the parade route Sunday night. "I've been a fan since 89. For me personally I feel like I'm part of the Heat family," said Dexter Pace of West Palm Beach, Fla. "I've been through the goods, the bads, the losses, the trades, and now it's like someone in my family has accomplished something. .... It's going to mean a lot for the city of Miami, winning the championship." As the event ended, Bosh thanked both the fans inside the arena and those outside, saying that without them, nothing would be possible for the Heat. "It feels right," Bosh said. "This is how it's supposed to be ... and I would like to do it all the time."

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.