The Arisons strolled the River Walk prior to the 1996 National Basketball Association All-Star Game in San Antonio, where Micky, the billionaire owner of the Miami Heat, became convinced that his son had the passion needed to govern the team.

Nick Arison, 14 at the time, bolted without explanation, disappearing for an hour after spotting rookie Kevin Garnett in a boat making its way down the water.

“We couldn’t find him,” said Micky Arison, back in San Antonio, where the Spurs and Heat split the opening two games of the NBA Finals. “He was chasing KG’s autograph.”

Nick Arison, the Heat’s chief executive officer who declined to comment for this story, has spent most of his 32 years chasing basketball autographs -- first on posters and scraps of paper and now on hundred-million-dollar contracts, including the one he helped to secure from four-time Most Valuable Player LeBron James.

When the Heat brass, including team President Pat Riley, wooed James, only one member of the contingent got a hug from the most coveted free agent in league history.

The son, dubbed “very smart and very applied” by former NBA Commissioner David Stern, was always more passionate about basketball than boats, the other staple of the Arison family. Micky’s father, Ted, parlayed a single used ship into Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company. Micky Arison is the company’s chairman.

“He always took a liking, an interest in the team, not really in the cruise company,” said Micky Arison, whose net worth is $7.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.

Mopping Floors

So the kid was given a job with the Heat, slinging a mop and collecting sweat-soaked towels.

“Even today, I see the ballboys and I say, ‘Jesus Christ, he was a hell of a ballboy,’” Micky Arison said of Nick, who after his 30th birthday was named the Heat’s CEO, putting him in charge of the club’s day-to-day operations.