While many believe James, Wade and Bosh -- three of the top five picks in the 2003 draft -- began plotting their course to eventually becoming teammates during their time together in the 2008 Olympics, Riley already had planted his own seed the day Wade signed his first major extension in 2006.
"This is how I think you plan and have a vision and look forward, hoping you can do something that's special," Riley said. "Coaching Kareem and Magic and James Worthy, and playing against [Larry] Bird, [Kevin] McHale and [Robert] Parrish, and [Joe] Dumars, Isiah Thomas and [Bill] Laimbeer, you need to have three really, really great players. There's two superstars and another truly great player. You've seen that on pretty much all championship teams have had that kind of element."
Riley remembers getting a call from Heat general manager Andy Elisburg on July 11, 2006.
"Andy was at a gas station," Riley said. "And he said Dwyane had accepted his extension, and it was a three-plus-one [three years guaranteed, plus one option year]. And it was Dwyane and LeBron James and Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire and a bunch of other guys that signed their extensions and they're all three years with one option. And I said, 'Well, who are the other guys?' And he gave me the list. And I said, 'Well, we're going to be players in 2010.'"
The heavy lifting -- swapping Shaq for Shawn Marion, then Marion for Jermaine O'Neal and other moves to clear the decks -- commenced. Along the way, there were some blunders, such as the Smush Parker experiment and the Ricky Davis and Mark Blount desperate attempts that resulted in a 15-67 season that produced the No. 2 lottery pick used to draft Michael Beasley in 2008.
Beasley came. Beasley went. Beasley came again, eventually.
But amid all of Riley's roster building and burning and rebuilding over the years, very little emphasis was ever placed on the draft or tapping into the foreign-player market.
"Everything we did from 2006 to 2010 was to be able to sit down at the table with LeBron and Chris and Amar'e and [Carlos] Boozer and Mike Miller, all these guys, to try to bring them to Miami," Riley said. "We were fortunate that they came, but we also planned for it. There have been some deals that we've made that haven't worked, but they haven't really been deals that really cost us a lot or hurt us."
Just as he planned in 2006 for the possibilities that came to fruition in 2010, Riley (with Arison) began exploring his options for this offseason while the ink dried on the contracts signed by James, Wade and Bosh four years ago.
Perseverance amid some doubts and uncertainty is the other bedrock that will carry Riley and the Heat's front-office staff into and through what could be pivotal summer. The Heat's Big Three could all come back and play out one or both of the final two seasons remaining on their respective contracts.
James told NBA TV in February that he couldn't envision a scenario in which he would leave Miami. Wade has said he hopes to retire someday having played his entire career with the Heat. And Bosh repeatedly has said he'd prefer to remain with the team.
Bosh knows firsthand just how persuasive Riley can be when he gets you in a room with a major decision to make. Like James, Bosh still hasn't forgotten the impact of Riley's personal touch.