Mike Miller was only with the Miami Heat for three years, but it felt like it was so much more.
The sharp shooter signed with the team back in 2010 when the “Big 3” joined forces and on paper, he was just another role player brought in to make the big dogs look good. But he did so much more.
With an infectious smile, a never say die attitude and lethal range of course, he instantly became a favourite with everyone. From teammates, to coaches, to the fans and even the supposedly thick-skinned, robotic front staff, they all loved him.
In fact, when he was released in the summer of 2013, Pat Riley described the decision to use the amnesty clause on him as an incredibly tough one, saying: “This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, Erik (Spoelstra, Miami’s coach) and the entire Miami Heat organization. Mike was one of the best we have ever had here and will be sorely missed.”
Owner Micky Arison was certainly glad he had saved nearly $40 million in luxury tax bills, though even he was a little saddened by Miller’s departure and he took to twitter to show his gratitude.
— Micky Arison (@MickyArison) July 16, 2013
Dwyane Wade also chimed in by saying, “I love Mike. We all love Mike. It’s tough to lose one of our brothers.”
When Miami faced the Memphis Grizzlies, that long-lost brother had returned. Granted he was donning the enemy gear, but it didn’t matter- Mike Miller was home.
The joy in the faces of the Heat players, staff and fans alike was plain to see in a touching moment seldom seen in the business first, everything else second, NBA.
First there was the heart-warming one-minute long video as the American Airlines Arena re-lived the good times such as the pre-game rituals, the assault from 3-point range to kill off the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, to his “Ice-ice Baby” double act with Chris Andersen.
That was followed by a playful scrum as Wade and Co. swarmed their former brother in arms.
LeBron James’ push saved him from the mauling and Miller went on a lap of the arena hugging everyone from the equipment managers, all the way to the front office staff that cut and basically everyone within range.
As if he had forgotten he was due to receive his reward for his contribution last year, Miller finally accepted his 2012-13 NBA championship ring from Erik Spoelstra. All while the crowd gave him a round of applause fit only for a hero’s return.
The game itself was ended up 91-86 with the defending champions taking the spoils.
Perhaps this emotional, nostalgic night was just what was needed for the Miami Heat (losers of six of nine games coming in) to re-ignite their championship campaign and complete the “Three-peat” in what had been mixed and taxing 2013-14 season to say the least.