Chances are you've heard about the Miami Heat fans who decided to get an early start on their commute when the San Antonio Spurs held a 94-89 lead with 28 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. Chances are you've also heard that rumors of the Heat's demise were greatly exaggerated, as a headband-less LeBron James and a pure-from-the-corner Ray Allen authored enough late-game magic to push the game to overtime, where the Heat held on for a 103-100 win that guaranteed a deciding Game 7 for the 2013 NBA championship on Thursday night.
Heat center Chris Bosh played a major role in the comeback win, playing sensational defense in the late stages, grabbing the offensive rebound that led to Allen's corner 3-pointer and coming up with two huge blocks, including one on a last-ditch try by Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green, to seal the victory. And at the Heat's Wednesday practice, the All-Star center didn't mince his words when asked about those who took an early powder from AmericanAirlines Arena when the chips were down:
"For all those guys who left, don't come back for Game 7." - Chris Bosh
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) June 19, 2013
He had plenty more to say, too.
"You never give up," Bosh continued. "People gave up on us, and they can stay where they are and watch the game at home."
As we noted after Game 6, many of those who left early tried to rush back into the arena upon learning that the Heat had made a late run to force overtime, only to be turned away by arena workers — and, eventually, Miami police — who upheld the venue's no re-entry policy. Bosh, as you might suspect, had no sympathy for those forced to stay out.
"Yeah, you can't get let back in after you leave," he said. "I know that. Hell, I've been to games. You can't leave a game and then come back. It doesn't make any sense. You left. It's not punishment; that's protocol."
Bosh's teammates took a somewhat softer, more inclusive stance. James said he understood that the Heat had put supporters through the emotional wringer down the stretch.
"I apologize to our fans from last night. But the game is — that's why the game is played all the way to zeros," said James, who scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to help secure the win. "As a fan and people watching at home [...] wow, it had to do a lot to them, both if you were a Spurs fan or a Heat fan or just a general fan of the game. It definitely brought everything out of you that you probably didn't think you had."
Point guard Mario Chalmers struck an appropriately bemused tone.
"To the fans that stayed, thank you," he said, according to CBSSports.com's Royce Young. "To the fans that left, maybe you'll stay in Game 7."
Veteran forward Shane Battier was most welcoming of all.
"The door will always be open for them," he said, according to Young.
This, of course, is a wholly reasonable perspective — there's no reason for the Heat to start lobbing bombs at paying customers before the biggest home game of the season. And yes, as friend Bobby Big Wheel wrote Wednesday at Deadspin, there are all sorts of legitimate real-life reasons for leaving a sporting event early that don't make you less of a fan. I mean, Mr. Wheel's conflation of a random regular-season Penguins/Whalers tilt with a potential elimination NBA Finals game in which the Heat had already made a monster late run feels a bit off to me, but hey, it takes diff'rent strokes to move the world.
Still, it's kind of great to hear Bosh — someone often criticized and derided for being soft, for being aloof/goofy/overly cerebral/insert-not-tough-signifier-here — so plainly and in such a matter-of-fact tone tell the fairweather friends and bandwagon jumpers in his midst to kindly get to steppin'. You bail on us? Good. Who needs you? We're 48 minutes from back-to-back championships. Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends, and more of the former to go around with fewer glasses to fill.
I'm not quite sure why, but that kind of snarl seems to suit Bosh — especially a version who, twice in the last three games, has been a defensive demon for the Heat, and who damn sure better have earned some stripes in the eyes of cynics by withstanding a first-half hammering from Spurs star Tim Duncan to play his best all-around ball when it mattered most. Let the rest of your teammates play nice and open their arms, Chris; hang onto this tone through Thursday night, huh?
For what it's worth, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said he "didn't have any idea about" the fans leaving early at the time, and that he didn't think his players did either.
"We were fully engaged in the moment," the coach said.
As, we hope, he, his team and every single ticket-holder at AmericanAirlines Arena will be come Thursday night. A series this amazing deserves nothing less.