Former Miami Heat player guarantees Pat Riley’s ‘burning’ to defeat Lakers in NBA Finals

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In the opinion of a player who was once a member of the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, Heat team president Pat Riley is passionate about beating the team he once coached to four NBA titles.

Tony Smith was drafted by the Lakers in 1990. He then played for the Heat during Riley’s first season as head coach of the Heat during the 1995-96 season.

That unique perspective allowed Smith to offer his opinion about how Riley is approaching the NBA Finals matchup between the team he now runs and the team he used to coach.

“There is no question [Riley] wants it bad,” Smith said. “He will never show it, and you will never see it. He is going to look like a cool customer all day long because that is what he does.

“But inside, he’s burning.”

Riley’s role in four NBA titles with the Lakers was later followed by his role in all three of the Heat’s titles. Riley coached Miami to its first title and served as the head man in the team’s front office during its most recent two championships.

Over the course of Riley’s legendary career, he’s always been zeroed in on winning championships, a focus that’s obviously paid off.

However, this season’s finals matchup strikes a deeper chord for Riley given his past connections to the Lakers. The fact that former Heat star LeBron James is now playing for the Lakers no doubt increases Riley’s motivation to win.

Entering Friday night’s Game 2 matchup, Riley’s Heat squad has to find a way to bounce back after a disappointing loss in Wednesday night’s series opener.

In addition, Riley knows that the challenge of winning is now even more difficult due to the multiple injuries the Heat sustained in Game 1.

While Riley basks in the knowledge of his role in winning past NBA titles, it’s clear that capturing a championship this time might make it the most rewarding for him.

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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.