When the Miami Heat pulled off what so many thought was unthinkable and signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwyane Wade three summers ago, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was impressed.

So he called Heat President Pat Riley to say exactly that.

”He’s been a competitor, obviously, his whole career since he was a player in college and beyond,” Popovich said Wednesday, the last day of practices before his Spurs and the Heat will open the NBA Finals with Game 1 in Miami. ”He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster. So why wouldn’t he get credit for that? Why wouldn’t you congratulate him for that? So I did.”

Not many around the league did, of course.

When Riley and other Heat executives like managing general partner Micky Arison and senior vice president Andy Elisburg put together the plan that they thought would land James and Bosh, season-ticket holders were sold on the idea of a Heat trying to build a dynasty.

Now with three straight finals appearances, and with a chance at a second straight title, they might be on their way to building one. And in Popovich’s eyes, Miami’s success only makes Riley’s career look even more storied now.

Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press