Regardless of the outcome of this year’s NBA Finals, this year’s Miami Heat will always be remembered for their resilience and never-say-die attitude.
They trail the series three games to one to the Denver Nuggets, but head coach Erik Spoelstra still found the time for a little levity. He joked that the team’s mascot was able to withstand being rocked by UFC star Conor McGregor because of the team’s toughness.
Erik Spoelstra asked about Burnie the mascot taking a punch from Connor McGregor but being ready for next game:
— Will Manso (@WillManso) June 11, 2023
The incident happened when McGregor and the mascot were attempting to do a promo for a pain relief spray. The mixed martial artist hit the mascot twice, which necessitated a trip to the emergency room for the latter.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 10, 2023
The toughness Spoelstra spoke of seems to radiate from every orifice of the Heat organization. It emanates from team president Pat Riley, who has an iron will that is exceeded by no one. Riley honed that will during his days as the head coach of the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s, then brought it to a then-fledgling Miami franchise in the mid-1990s.
The Heat played sporadically all through the regular season and had major problems scoring, as they were the only team to average under 110 points a game. They barely survived the play-in tournament to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and most expected instant death for them in the first round of the playoffs.
Yet again, just about everyone outside of South Florida is counting out the Heat. Game 5 will take place on Monday in Denver, and they’re big underdogs against Nikola Jokic and company.
At the same time, perhaps a Heat victory there wouldn’t end up surprising too many people after the fact, given what has transpired over the last several weeks.