Miami Heat president Pat Riley turned plenty of heads this week when he suggested an asterisk would always accompany the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA Finals victory due to Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic's injury absences on the Heat.
Riley, however, says he was never trying to question the authenticity of Los Angeles' championship.
"The asterisk is next to the Heat’s name, not the Lakers," the Heat executive told David Wilson of the Miami Herald in a statement. "Their title is legitimate. Our loss has an asterisk (next) to it. The Lakers were the better team. Period."
Riley made the initial controversial remarks Friday as he spoke with reporters for the first time since the Heat fell in The Finals. Miami was without Adebayo and Dragic for multiple games after they suffered a shoulder strain and torn plantar fascia, respectively, in Game 1. Riley felt his team would have at least prolonged the championship series had they been healthy.
"They beat us fair and squarely. But there will always be that asterisk; if we had Bam and Goran 100% - Goran was our leading scorer (entering the Finals) - it might have gone to a seventh game," the 75-year-old said.
Talks of an asterisk on the 2020 title had surfaced well before the Heat lost two of their most important players during The Finals, however.
As the NBA prepared to restart the suspended 2019-20 campaign inside the Disney World bubble, some, including Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal, suggested the eventual champions would always carry an asterisk alongside their feat due to the drastic changes to the season's format.
However, Lakers vice president and general manager Rob Pelinka argued otherwise in a recent appearance on "The Woj Pod" with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The executive claimed this year's championship has more merit than usual.
"I think someone said 'Hey, will this championship in 2020 have an asterisk on it?' I like to say, 'No, I think it's got a gold star,'" Pelinka said. "Just because you had to do so much more to get to the end and I think it was just a testament I think to our team, the players and our staff, coming together in that environment."