This time last year, Miami Heat fans had no idea what to do with their hands. Since 1992, when the Heat first made the playoffs, the team has missed the postseason on only five occasions. Last year was one of those dark moments. Still high off the LeBron James-fueled years of annual NBA Finals appearances and butt-clenching playoff runs, fans felt weird knowing American Airlines Arena sat empty in May and June.
Thankfully, the Heat is back where its belongs this year: in the playoffs. The last few games of the season will determine their opponents, but it already feels like all is right with the world again. Heat fans can ready themselves for an April, May, and, let's hope, June filled with all the basketball traditions they've come to love post-Easter. Here's what everyone missed out on last year:
1. White-hot pride. Every Heat fan owns an inordinate amount of white Heat gear, and it's all for this time of year. The Heat toyed with a "White Hot" playoffs scheme long before the Big Three era, but it sort of alternated between other colors (black and red) other years. Since 2006, though, Heat fans filling the AAA in all white has become a tradition the team won't likely break this postseason.
It's become an expected annual occurrence to see a sea of white shirts in the arena. At this point, it's a mental thing. When the white
2. White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Many teams before the Heat have used "Seven Nation Army" to pump up their crowds, and since the Heat really popularized the song during the Big Three era, it's certainly been played out. These days, ESPN even plays Jack White's driving rock song during professional bowling events. But for some reason, "Seven Nation Army" still feels like it belongs to the Heat.
Over the past decade, the most lit moments in Heat history have been accompanied by "Seven Nation Army" and its driving drum beat. When the tune plays, you know the team is playing downhill and kicking its opponent's ass.
3. Julia Dale singing the National Anthem. Since 2010, Julia Dale has been the voice kicking off Heat playoff games. When the finals come around, normally the NBA asks teams which big star they want for the National Anthem. But with the Heat, they just call the front office to confirm Miss Dale isn't sick.
Call it a lucky charm, call it superstition, call it whatever you want, but eight years later, you can bet your sweet little ass Julia Dale will sing the National Anthem at the American Airlines Arena when the games get serious later this month.
4. Pregame prep at Bayside Marketplace. Bayside is one big Miami Heat tailgate party. Sure, the outdoor mall next to the AAA sells things other than food and alcohol, but Heat fans rarely pay attention to any of those other options before a playoff game. Every Heat fan has met up with a group of friends at Bayside before a postseason matchup to get properly lubricated and full of nonstadium food. It's a tradition to stop at the Hooters overlooking the marina before a Heat game to grab a beer.
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During the season, if it's not a weekend game, most fans just rush to get to the game before tipoff. When the playoffs roll around, though, fans skip out of work early, and Bayside is noticeably busier and livelier. A Heat playoff game without Bayside just wouldn't seem right.
5. The literally lit pregame introductions. The Heat uses its borderline-scary flame throwers during player introductions all season, but when the playoffs roll around and everyone is wearing white, those flames seem to burn brighter and shoot higher. Maybe they do.
From pregaming in all white at Bayside to listening in awe while Julia Dale sings the National Anthem after a spectacular fire show, Miami Heat fans have come to expect a certain ritual before tipoff in the playoffs. In just a couple of weeks, those traditions will return after a very uncommon year off.