Remembering when Pat Riley scolded referee who ejected Jimmy Buffett at Miami Heat game

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Singer Jimmy Buffett’s death on Friday night recalled the memory of his ejection from a 2001 Miami Heat game, causing then-head coach Pat Riley to complain to a game official.

Buffett was an avid Heat fan whose ejection from American Airlines Arena took place on Feb. 4, 2001. The stated reason was Buffett’s use of profanities from his seat behind the baseline toward referee Joe Forte.

Despite Buffett’s longtime fame, Forte apparently had no idea who he was at the time of the ejection. Riley, a friend of Buffett’s, tried to explain who he was, which nearly got Riley himself ejected.

That’s because Forte was under the impression that Riley’s invoking of the term “Parrothead” was directed at Forte. In reality, the term has long been used to describe Buffett’s avid fan base.

“He thought I was insulting him,” said Riley. “He wanted to give me a technical for calling him a Parrothead.”

When the ejection took place, Buffett at first refused to leave, causing a brief delay in the contest. Eventually, he was escorted out by police on the scene.

The controversy was part of a wild game in which the Knicks emerged with a 103-100 overtime victory. During the contest, both the Heat’s Anthony Mason and Knicks’ Larry Johnson were given double technical fouls for a brief scuffle but managed to stay in the game.

One of the other reasons why Forte might have been hypersensitive to Buffett’s barbs was because the event took place just days after Allen Iverson’s controversial comments toward a fan.

In that road contest against the Indiana Pacers, the Philadelphia 76ers’ guard uttered homophobic remarks toward a fan he believed was yelling racial slurs at him. Security officials indicated that obscenities but no racial slurs were heard, with Iverson subsequently fined $5,000 by the NBA.

Besides cheering for the Heat from his arena seat, Buffett also performed the national anthem for Heat playoff games.

Buffett’s last opportunity to watch the Heat try for another championship came three months ago, an effort that came up short against the Denver Nuggets.

At this time, there’s no word whether the Heat will make an effort to honor Buffett. One potential option could be to have the Heat uniforms adorned with a parrot patch.

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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.