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Heat want fans to sing anthem

May 3, 2011

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— For the Miami Heat, one national-anthem performer will not be enough tonight.

They want thousands.

Breaking from tradition, the Heat will not have anyone brought in to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series with the Boston Celtics on tonight. Instead, the Heat are encouraging fans to be the singers, making that change less than one day following the announcement that Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

“It was a powerful moment — for all of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Sunday night’s news that captivated the nation.

The Heat have honored soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at home games for several seasons, and say Tuesday’s game will include an enhanced military tribute. Members of the armed services will unfurl the 50-foot American flag at center court during the anthem, a job typically handled by Heat employees.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Henry Hernandez, along with his wife Julie and their children Alexa and Matthew, will be honored before the game, part of the “Home Strong” program Heat President Pat Riley founded five years ago. Hundreds of soldiers have been recognized in brief pregame ceremonies at midcourt just before tip-off of every Miami home game since the program was born.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he was watching film Sunday night when he learned of bin Laden’s death. Like Spoelstra, he said he appreciated being allowed to put basketball in some sort of perspective for a moment.

“It was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “It was awesome. It actually put things in their proper place. When you’re watching film, you’re cussing to yourself, you’re writing bad words down on a piece of paper and all of a sudden this comes on, it was awesome. Just like we remember 9/11, I think we’ll remember this moment as well. It was just really neat.”

Riley has long had a saying, that sports are merely “the toy department of human affairs.”

Those words resonated deeply within Spoelstra on Sunday night.

“What we do has no ramifications on the real world,” Spoelstra said. “That is real. It’s something else that that was able to be accomplished. We’re trying to focus on what we do, but it is just a game and it is the toy department. It was uplifting to find out that news.”

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