In the opinion of basketball legend Magic Johnson, Miami Heat team president Pat Riley is passionately hoping to add one more NBA title to his incredible legacy.
Josh Peter of USA Today explored how Riley’s path to success was forged, with Johnson explaining that more than four decades of success as an NBA coach and executive hasn’t diverted Riley’s focus.
“He wants to in the worst way win one more,” Johnson said of Riley. “He hasn’t changed. He’s still intense, I can see it on his face.”
Johnson was a central part of helping Riley lead the Los Angeles Lakers to four titles during the 1980s, an era that’s since become known simply as “Showtime.” In addition to those championships, Riley led the Lakers to three other trips to the Finals.
At age 78, Riley is at an age where some of his past contemporaries have long since retired or passed away. He could have easily retired years ago with his legacy intact, but his love of basketball and winning keeps him going.
Riley’s NBA playing career was fairly nondescript, though he did earn a championship ring as a bench player for the 1971-72 Lakers. That record-setting team went 69-13 during the regular season and undoubtedly fed Riley’s hunger for another championship.
A decade after that title, Riley led the Lakers to a championship but was forced to watch other teams celebrate the next two seasons. However, in three of the following four campaigns, the Lakers won NBA titles.
Riley later moved on to become head coach of the New York Knicks, where his teams made one appearance in the Finals. From there, Riley moved to the Heat, a partnership that’s made him a team icon.
During the 2005-06 campaign, he took over coaching duties during the season and led the Heat to their first title. Four years later, he pulled off an incredible coup as team president by signing both LeBron James and Chris Bosh as free agents.
James and Bosh joined Dwyane Wade and promptly led the Heat to two NBA titles and four consecutive Finals appearances. After James left in 2014, the Heat didn’t return to the Finals until 2020, when they lost to the Lakers in six games.
Now, Riley is just four Heat wins away from collecting another title, something that Jimmy Butler promised last December. Getting there will be a challenge, with the Denver Nuggets offering stiff opposition to that path.
One thing that seems certain if the Heat do end up winning a title this season is that Riley will likely start focusing on capturing another championship in 2024.