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Miami is a hoops haven

By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer Published: February 13, 2013

Three days, three sellout crowds, about 50,000 tickets sold in all.

When the Heat won the NBA title, team radio announcer Mike Inglis excitedly shouted that Miami was “the center of the basketball universe.” These days, it seems like that statement has never been more true. And in a city where the football teams aren't exactly filling stadiums, hoops is hot.

“It's well-deserved,” said Heat guard James Jones, a former Hurricane player and a Miami native. “We have a very good coach and very good team down at the University of Miami. Evidently, we're the defending champs. FIU is on the way up. I think the game of basketball is continuing to grow here. This is always been predominantly a football town. The Dolphins have been here longer than anyone. But basketball has slowly gotten better.”

Of late, it's seemed to have gotten better in a hurry.

The Heat won a title in 2006, were the NBA's worst team two years later, then landed James and Chris Bosh to play with Wade in 2010 — with two trips to the NBA Finals and one title to show so far. The Hurricanes' women's program was one of the nation's best over the past two years. And this season, the Miami men are the talk of the NCAA game, with many people already tabbing them as a Final Four-caliber team, even though few even listed them as a top-four team in the ACC entering the season.

“A lot of good things are happening in Miami,” Wade said.

Even the stars are fans of the other teams in town these days. Wade, James and Jones were courtside for the Hurricanes' win over North Carolina this weekend, and it's not unusual to see college players in turn showing up at Heat games.

But even Hurricanes point guard Shane Larkin isn't sure that Miami has truly turned the corner from being a football town — yet.

“Miami has traditionally been great at football,” Larkin said. “Until we have that type of success year after year after year, it's going to be a football town. But with what we're doing right now, people are going to start taking notice … so we can keep building until they say it's a basketball town.”

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