After a thrilling game seven victory, the Miami Heat are the 2013 NBA Champions. This gives the franchise back to back championships after making the league finals, the last three years. The distance between Miami and South Dakota doesn't give the Heat a large fan base in this area. However, there's a new partnership that could change that.
The only thing until now keeping ties with the Miami Heat to the state of South Dakota is Mitchell native Mike Miller. A new partnership with the Sioux Falls SkyForce in the NBA D League and the Miami Heat could make those ties stronger. Sioux Falls SkyForce President Mike Heineman says the two teams are partnered in what is called a Hybrid.
"Basically it means that the Miami Heat will run our basketball operations. We continue to run the business side of the SkyForce but the Miami heat will control the basketball side of us. They’ll hire the coaches; they’ll decide who the players are; all the stuff that goes along with the basketball side of it. So this will be their minor league team and they’ll run it however they want," Heineman says.
Heineman says the Miami Heat can build up talent for their franchise or organization. If the Heat wants to send somebody down for more development, then they go to Sioux Falls and play with the SkyForce. If the SkyForce has a player with a lot of potential and skill, they could be called up to the Miami Heat. Heineman says the Heat's credibility can only improve the SkyForce.
"Obviously this will be our twenty fifth season, were moving into a new building which is obviously very exciting for us but just to re-energize our fan base and give them something new to get excited about. Always want to try to be re-inventing yourself in minor league sports, you can’t stand pat or you’ll get left behind and I think this adds quite a bit of credibility to our product and hopefully takes us to the level we want to be at," Heineman says.
With twenty four years under the belt for the Sioux Falls SkyForce, it is fair to say they have a very good following. SkyForce basketball was the winter sport while Canaries baseball was the summer sport. This is before the days of Stampede hockey and Storm football. Lucas Dannenbring is a season ticket holder with the SkyForce.
"To me the thing that I enjoy the most about…cause we actually do with some of the other minor league teams here. But I think what separates the SkyForce is the fact that you have the opportunity to actually see players that play in the NBA," Dannenbring says.
Dannenbring says he is also excited about the color scheme change for the SkyForce. Out goes teal and in comes the Red and Yellow making an immediate resemblance to the Miami Heat.
"I love it, you know I’m one of the people that the blue aqua color whatever you want to call it was just , to me I think it dated. Now seeing the new color schemes it’s exciting, I think it’s much more modern and it shows that we’re moving forward and that’s the exciting part," Dannenbring says.
A recent poll on NBA.com shows the state of Florida as the only state with majority support towards the Miami Heat in the NBA finals. Why is it that sports fans in South Dakota dislike the Miami Heat? Brandon Valley Native Kyle Rokeh says he has always been a fan of the SkyForce but not the Miami Heat.
"I just don’t like the way that the team was constructed. I don’t think that that’s good not only for major sports but just the NBA. I don’t think it’s right to have 3 of the top 20 players in the NBA put on one team at the same time," Rokeh says.
The three players being mentioned are Dwayne Wade who was already on the team when Lebron James and Chris Bosh were signed. Rokeh says he feels he can keep the two teams separate with the SkyForce and Heat. He says he plans to always like the SkyForce but feels no pressure to also cheer for the Heat.
"It’s more of a local thing for me not necessarily you know I have to root for this team because they're owned by the Timberwolves and I have to root for this team because their owned by the Heat. I don’t think that that’s the way it should be. I think that people that live in certain areas should root for their hometown teams and that’s what I’m doing," Rokeh says.
The Sioux Falls SkyForce gained a lot of momentum with the new partnership but the changing of venues for next year also has fans excited. The SkyForce plans to open next season in the new Sanford Pentagon arena. SkyForce President Mike Heineman says even though the Pentagon is considerably smaller than the current arena, it should make for a great fan experience.
"It’s going to be really neat, it’s going to be a great basketball environment. Fans will be right on top of the court. We’ve seen it work in other D-League cities, the Maine RedClaws have a small building, the Santa Cruz Warriors have a small building and the crowds are just electric in there. You think you need 6 to 7 thousand people in a building to make it exciting…you don’t, you just need a full house and people being excited to be there," President Heineman says.
Heineman says the SkyForce organization says is excited to see the fan reaction at the Home Opener game next season.