So y’all wanna know what this Heat Culture about, huh?
Alright, I’ll tell you a story.
Back in ’05, when Pat Riley took over as coach of the Heat, he went out and got a bunch of fighting guys. Just a bunch of fighters, you know what I mean??
Pat had been recruiting me since ’96. He offered me a lot of money to come to Miami at the end of my contract. I turned it down, because I felt like I was still building something in Seattle, and wasn’t ready to switch teams.
But then he came for me again in ’05, at the end of my career. Shaq was there, who’s like a brother to me, and him and Pat convinced me. So it’s Shaq, young DWade, myself and some other OGs — Jason Williams and Antoine Walker. I mean, they brought in a group.
And when I got there, it was all about this culture they had in place.
Everyone always wants to know about the culture. They want to know the “secrets of the Miami Heat” and whatnot. They got all these opinions and questions — especially with a fifth-seed team showing out in the Finals. Now everyone’s trying to figure it out.....
Man, if y’all want to know, here it is. Here’s the big secret:
Heat Culture isn’t just about winning.
It’s about how you win.
It’s crawling to the finish line if you have to. It’s leaving NOTHING in the tank. It’s being in the best fucking shape of your LIFE. It’s always wanting more: out of yourself, out of your teammates, even out of the game. It’s being that type of guy where they might talk bad about you in the media — about your attitude or your ego or whatever it may be — but Pat knows you’re going to give him that BULLY on the court.
I’m telling you.
It’s not what you think. It’s not a catchphrase. It’s not some lil bubble storyline.
And yeah….. we had our reputations. Nobody really thought it was gonna work. They thought that Pat went and got him a thug crew. That everybody who he got was always negative, they got an attitude, and stuff like that.
So, soon as we got there, Van Gundy was our coach, but Pat had already laid down the law. He was like, “You’re not gonna have body fat. You’re gonna come in here and WORK. We’re about to be the most in-shape team that’s ever made a run at a title.”
One time, after he took over as coach, he got the whole team together. We thought we were going to practice. Turns out we were going to the movies. Pat took us to see Glory Road.
It’s that movie about Texas Western hoops in 1966. Based on a true story, by the way. So, in the movie, this new coach takes a job in El Paso, where he doesn’t have a ton of resources — but he wants to recruit the best guys, regardless of race, to make a run at a championship. And what he ends up with are all these guys with raw talent, and more Black guys than white guys, which was a big deal at the time. And the coach puts them through it. He puts them through this rigorous training program and tries to unite them around a common goal of winning. First team in NCAA history with an all-Black starting lineup, too.
And, of course, they won.
So, Pat takes us to see this movie instead of practice. And wanna know the best part? He actually played on the other team in real life. He was on the Kentucky team that got beat in the movie!
We didn’t even have to say nothing after we left the theater. It was like, Yeah — message received. We knew that’s who we were. We were that raw team. That’s who Pat wanted us to be.
Heat Culture really is just the culture of Pat Riley, you know what I’m saying?
Heat Culture really is just the culture of Pat Riley, you know what I’m saying?
Now, I know what y’all thinking. Come on, GP. Lots of teams watch movies. EVERY team wants to win. How you build a CULTURE just off wanting to win??? Isn’t that every team’s culture???
No, it’s not.
And I’ll tell you why.
When Pat came out to Vegas to recruit me, he let me know what it was gonna be like. He told me about the practices. He told me about the expectations. He told me about the grind. That’s Pat — he says it like it is. He doesn’t sugarcoat it for you. And he put it to me like this: The results will be great if you buy into it.
The man told no lies.
At the end of the day, with Heat Culture, it really does come down to you. It comes down to a question that only you can answer: Are you gonna buy in?
And it’s black and white, man — either you are or you aren’t. That’s why this ain’t every team’s culture. And to be honest? That’s why this culture ain’t for every player.
You can always spot the guys not buying into it.
They don’t last.
They might think they’re gonna last. On some other teams, they might last. But in the same way this culture propels certain guys to greatness….. other guys, they get exposed. That’s one of the things about it: Heat Culture will expose the holes in your game quick. And it’s by design. It’s by design, because the way Pat and them are thinking — if there’s a loose piece, then it don’t work. Gotta have the whole thing in sync, you know what I’m saying? Gotta have it humming from the top on down.
Gotta have a culture so strong it turns a team into a family.
I’ll tell you about the day I bought in. I still remember it. It was this one day at practice where Pat and them had us doing wind sprints — doing old-school stuff from when you was back in the eighth and ninth grade! OLD school, you know what I’m saying? Doing defensive slides, taking charges. And I’m loving it, man. I’m loving it.
Then I look around.
Whole team is loving it.
And I’m just thinking to myself, like, Wow. You have this whole group of NBA vets back on their eighth and ninth grade shit? You’ve got that kind of power?? When he did that, I think that’s when I said, OK. This is different. This is real.
Actually, I said this is unreal.
It was crazy — but I believed. I bought IN.
Wanna know who else bought in? Like really really bought in??
Spo took to Heat Culture like a motherfucker.
You have to remember, Spo wasn’t an assistant yet back then. He was a workout guy — mainly for DWade. Like he was coming out of the video room and working out DWade and putting him through jumps and things. He wasn’t even on the bench at the time. He was in the back, you know what I’m saying?
That’s the proof right there: How many head coaches you know that got their start as the video coordinator, working dudes out, and now at the front of the organization??? How many??
That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s different. It’s crazy how successful Spo’s been, coming up in this ball club. And it’s all because of a highly specific, very unique culture.
And that CULTURE is what’s brought this team as far as these Finals.
It’s why you can’t count this team out — not even down 3–1.
Matter of fact, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking back to being in a similar position.
You know the story.
We’re down 0–2 to Dallas in the Finals in ’06.
Now it’s Game 3, we’re back in Miami, and it’s tied. About halfway through the fourth quarter, Pat calls a timeout and we head to the bench.
Early in the season we’d created this big metal bucket in the center of the locker room — and we each had to put something personal in there. Something we loved. The media was always asking what was in the bucket, but we never said. Some people had bracelets and coins and stuff in there. Rosary beads. Pictures of our wives and kids. You put it in the bucket, it meant something.
For me, it was a picture of my whole family. That’s what I threw in there. I said, “This is my family. I value y’all as much as I value them. And that’s why I’m going to throw my family picture in this bucket.”
So now it’s six minutes left in Game 3, and our season’s on the line. And when we get in our huddle, man, Pat….. he knows we’re not just thinking about being down in this one game. We’re thinking about what we left in that locker room. We’re thinking about that bucket. About what matters. About our entire motivation.
And he takes one of those deep Pat breaths, one of those focused breaths, and he says, “Alright, look….. we’re down 0–2. So y’all need to make a decision right now. Y’all need to decide if you’re in or you’re out. Do you want to win or lose? If you want to lose, O.K. If you want to win — if you want to win a championship — then you bring your hearts, you bring your hard hats, and you bring them right now.”
And, man. We went out there, and we brought our hard hats. And we played our hearts out. And guess what?? We won that game. And the next one. And the next one. And the one after that. Four straight, for those counting. Four straight and a trophy.
That same mentality is exactly what I’m seeing from the 2020 Heat in these playoffs.
And I guarantee you — Spo, Pat and them dudes, they’re saying the same things in this bubble locker room that was said back in ’06.
Oh yeah and one more thing. I’m gon’ be real: After Pat spoke that night, I said my own little piece as well. I was the oldest player on the team, 37 years old….. and I knew this might be my last shot. So when Pat finished, I got up, and I told those guys—
Actually, nah, I’mma keep that in-house. Doesn’t matter the exact words. Just know it was some vet talk. It was some season on the line talk.
And now I’m about to write down something similar, that I want to say to this Heat team — with their season on the line.
I got one message:
Everyone doubts you right now. Everyone’s writing you off. They’re getting ready to CROWN them other guys. They’re shining up that trophy for ’em….. they’ve got that champagne on ice.
But they forgot about one thing.
Y’all are still here.
Y’all are still here — and y’all belong here.
Next three games are for the Culture.
They forgot about the Miami fucking Heat.