When you are a professional athlete, sometimes you need more than just winning and losing to motivate you. That’s why we see guys like Michael Jordan turn imagined slights in to the biggest offenses possible, using those transgressions to fuel competitive fire. Playing a game for money can get ridiculous when you really think about it, so a little something extra can be a huge help.

And that’s exactly what Erik Spoelstra gave the Heat before they began their march to the Larry O’Brien trophy. In fact, it was that very trophy that Spoelstra used to fire up his team. From the Miami Herald:

It started with a black Larry O’Brien Trophy and ended with a golden one.

Hours after the Heat’s victory parade had ended and the celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena was over, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra let everyone in on a little secret from the team’s playoff run that not even president Pat Riley knew about. The day before the playoffs started, Spoelstra presented his players with a replica of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the prize for winning an NBA championship.

Molded rubber and black in color, the symbol served as a pact between the team throughout the postseason.

Each player signed the trophy, promising to play together as a team to reach the Heat’s ultimate goal.

The trophy also helped the Heat keep track of their journey.

After each victory in the playoffs, Spoelstra and his players secretly marked a victory notch on the replica trophy.

“We had to see 16 of those notches before we could even get happy,” Dwyane Wade said. “In the locker room, we put that last notch on there, everybody started screaming and yelling.”

Between this and Jason Terry’s trophy tattoo, I am starting to think there is something to needing to have a fake version of the Larry O’Brien trophy near your team in order to win the NBA title. I don’t want to prognosticate too much, but maybe things would have turned out differently if the Thunder had hired a little person to dress as the Larry O’Brien trophy and travel with the team, much like Pedro Martinez’s good luck charm from the early 2000′s. There’s no way to know if it would have worked, but it sure seems like there is science to back this up.

Oklahoma City’s tragic misstep aside, pretty bold move by Erik Spoelstra. Bringing a black rubber replica of the Larry O’Brien trophy to a locker room where there are guys who have actually won the real gold version could have easily backfired, but it sure seems like the Heat took this thing seriously, even when they were scrawling their names on it like it was a friendship t-shirt at a high school retreat. But if a big, black piece of rubber can convince LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to dedicate themselves to their teammates and pursuing a championship, then it worked.

The only question that remains, however, is how Spoelstra found a place that would make him a rubber championship trophy. That’s not the kind of thing you can find in a catalog. That’s a custom order, for sure, and I wouldn’t mind having one sitting on my coffee table. Not only would it look awesome, since it’s rubber, it’d be the coolest dog chew toy imaginable. I need to make a call.

(via BDL)