There were thousands of fans at Thursday night's watch party at the American Airlines Arena to see the Chicago Bulls fold like a fitted sheet in the final seconds and lose 83-80 to the Heat, who will face Dallas for the NBA crown.
But only two attendees of the "White Hot Road Rally" spent the evening wearing white uniforms, sitting on a white couch on top of a white van with the best paint job in Miami. Denis Joseph and his 7-year-old son painted the van after the Heat beat the Celtics for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals, Joseph said. Here's the full text of on the side of the van:
TO: ALL LEBRON
HATERS & CELTICS
HE RIPPED YOUR HEART OUT
THE HEATLES MENU
DAN GILBERT, BARKLEY
BAYLESS WITH VOTKA [sic; huh?]
In the name of thoroughness, here's another picture that shows more of the paint job:
Tyrone Jackson was another fan who got creative with paint -- except this looked more like wall paint, and it was all over his head. He was drinking a Corona, almost certainly not his first of the evening, and was informing people that he was the Heat's number-one fan.
"If you wanna eat, you bet with the Heat," he said, poking a Riptide reporter repeatedly in the chest. He was excited by the prospect of his name appearing in print, he said, because he is "this close to a six-figure contract" with the franchise. "This close."
"To be their number one fan," he said, offended by the question. "Not two, not three, not four..." After counting like this for a while, he wandered off and gave the remainder of his beer to a gentleman who did not have shoes.
It was a strange evening, but the arena was prepared. Northeast Seventh Street was lined with portable toilets (45 of them, and clean!) and, somehow, trash cans were kept from overflowing the entire night. Once the game started, though, the logistical complications began: The massive 34,000-square-foot screen on the side of the building was visible from across the street, but was too pixelated to see how much time was on the clock, and one had to struggle to decipher the score.
Also, the myriad palm trees in front of the building at least partially obscured almost every view of the screen, and the television play-by-play being blasted through the speakers also meant that the Chicago fans' cheers were often drowning out Miami's. This took on a particularly cruel tone as the Bulls pulled ahead and the Heat kept doing things like "missing lots of shots" and "turning the ball over all the time."
An event security worker said planners were expecting 12,000 people at the event, and it's entirely possible more than that were present; after the game started, it was difficult to move anywhere even though the cordoned-off area stretched for well over a block in front of the arena.
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Also not moving very well: The lines for the food trucks. There were almost two dozen of them, but they were almost immediately overwhelmed and had lines that appeared to never advance. Many trucks simply ran out of food -- truck operators said they weren't told the extent of the plans for the evening, and several said they knew only that there would be a screen set up.
"We didn't know about Ludacris or the show," said David Pastrana, who worked the Miso Hungry truck unti it ran out of food a little after 9:30. "If there was a big show, we would have prepared double."
But the Heat get to play the Mavs whether or not fans got their funnel cake, so keep your schedule open: games 1 and 2 are here in Miami, 9 p.m. next Tuesday and Thursday. Tickets go on sale today at 1 p.m..