Originally created 06/14/06

Heat owner avoids the limelight



MIAMI - Now it's Micky Arison's turn.

The first two games of the NBA Finals were all about Mark Cuban. With the ubiquitous Mavericks owner popping up all over TV and spreading his opinions on the Internet, there's no question who the real star in Dallas is.

So when the NBA Finals shifted to South Florida for Game 3, it seemed only fitting the spotlight would fall to the owner of the Miami Heat. Only one problem: Don't expect Arison to go looking for it.

"He's a lot more low key, but without him we wouldn't be here," Heat coach and president Pat Riley said.

Arison has plenty to brag about, if he wanted. He's the chief executive of Carnival Corp., having taken the world's largest cruise ship group's revenues into the billions, and the Heat are thriving at AmericanAirlines Arena, the county-funded arena he worked to get built.

A valued sounding board for NBA commissioner David Stern because of his business sense, Arison was elected chairman of the league's Board of Governors in October. Even Cuban went along with Stern on that one - he said he voted for Arison.

"He's kind of the quiet assassin sometimes, but when there's something he disagrees with in the NBA, he tells you," Cuban said. "He'll be forthright with it. His approach is obviously a little different from mine, but he gets the job done."

The Heat are in the Finals because Arison has backed Riley's moves without question. He hired Riley after taking control of the franchise in 1995 and said he would have agreed with virtually "100 percent" of the decisions Riley has made since.

In the past two years, that has meant signing off on the acquisition and the extension for Shaquille O'Neal, plus the deals that brought Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Gary Payton and James Posey to Miami. And his players love him for it.

Make no mistake: As much as the players talk of their desire to finally win a title for Alonzo Mourning and Payton, getting a ring for Arison is right at the top of their list.

"You think of a guy like Micky Arison, who has sacrificed so much and done so much to try to put the pieces in place in order for this franchise to be successful for the city to have an opportunity to enjoy a moment like this," Mourning said. "It just makes this opportunity so much sweeter for us to enjoy."