As we continue ranking the top five players in franchise history, we come to the Miami Heat. The Heat became an expansion team before the 1988 season. Like most expansion teams Miami struggled early on. It wasn’t until 1996 that they made a deep run in the playoffs, making it to the Conference Finals before losing in 5 games to the Bulls. They had a string of six straight years reaching the playoffs in the late 90’s. In 2003 the Heat gambled on guard Dwyane Wade which paid off as he had a terrific rookie season. But in the summer of 2004, Miami made a blockbuster trade acquiring center Shaquille O’Neal which resulted in a championship in 2005. In the summer of 2010, Miami signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Wade which resulted in four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships. In their 30 years of existence, the Heat have 3 championships in 5 NBA Finals appearances and 20 playoff appearances. With that said here are the five greatest players in Miami Heat History.
Top Five Players in Franchise History: Miami Heat
5) Tim Hardaway
Hardaway was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1989. He helped form the trio called Run TMC which also included Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. Hardaway was an instant contributor for Golden State, scoring and passing becoming the 2nd fastest player to 5,000 points and 2,500 assists. During the 1995-96 season, Hardaway was traded to Miami with Chris Gatling for Kevin Willis and Bimbo Coles. Once he arrived in Miami, the Heat fortunes began to rise. In his first full season in Miami, he led them to a franchise record 61 wins falling to the eventual champion Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. In his time with Miami, he made All-NBA first team once, 2-time All-Star and had his number 10 retired. He never brought the Heat a title but his name is all over their record books.
Franchise ranks: 6th in points per game, 8th in points, 2nd in assists, 6th in steals, 1st in 3-pointers
4) Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal was drafted number 1 overall in 1992. He played 5 seasons in Orlando until he made the bold decision to leave and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. O’Neal would team with Kobe Bryant to win 3 championships and 3 Finals MVP’s for the Lakers before their relationship became toxic and O’Neal was dealt to Miami in 2004. Shaq was traded to Miami for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and a future first-round pick. Shaq was a beast in Miami, forming a dynamic duo with young stud Dwyane Wade.
In 2005 they would lead the Miami Heat to their first championship defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Injuries slowed him to start the 2007 season and his production also fell. This prompted some animosity between Shaq and Riley and the Heat seemed to be ready to ride Wade as the top star. In February of 2008, Miami sent Shaq to Phoenix in a trade for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. In his short 4 and a half years with Miami, Shaq won 1 title, 4 all-star appearances, 1 All NBA first team and had his number retired.
Franchise ranks: 3rd in points per game, 12th in rebounds, 7th in rebounds per game
Mourning was drafted 2nd overall in 1992 by the Charlotte Hornets. After 3 seasons in Charlotte, Mourning was unhappy and rejected a contract extension with the Hornets. He was then dealt to Miami along with Pete Myers and LeRon Ellis for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves, and a first-round pick. While in Miami “Zo” became a force on both sides of the ball. He was a dynamic shot blocker and also established himself as a low post scorer. During the mid-late 90’s the Heat struck a rivalry with the New York Knicks producing unbelievable series and even some brawls. Prior to the start of the 2000-2001 season, Mourning was diagnosed with a kidney condition that caused him to miss a major portion of that season. His condition worsened in 2002 causing him to miss the entire season. He would then sign with the New Jersey Nets, however, he retired and had kidney surgery and then returned to the Nets. He has extremely unhappy upon his returned getting traded to Toronto where he was bought out. Mourning returned to Miami, joining the Heat and backing up Shaq on their way to the 2005 title.
Franchise ranks: 2nd in points, 12th in points per game, 2nd in rebounds, 9th in rebounds per game, 1st in blocks
2) LeBron James
After doing all he could for the Cleveland Cavaliers for 8 seasons, James signed with Miami. In his short four year run in Miami, Lebron was amazing leading the Heat to 4 straight NBA Finals appearances, winning the NBA title in 2012 and 2013. He was the MVP of both his Finals wins with Miami. While in Miami he was a 4-time All-Star, 4-time all Defensive First team, 4-time all NBA first team, 2 time MVP. I know it was brief but James in four years resurrected this franchise and put his name firmly at the top of the greatest player of all time discussions.
Franchise ranks: 4th on points, 1st in points per game, 4th in assists, 3rd in assists per game, 8th in steals, 9th in 3-pointers and 11th in rebounds
1) Dwyane Wade
While he is not the best player on this list, he is the best player in Miami Heat history. Wade was drafted 5th overall in the 2003 NBA draft. Wade was a phenomenal rookie making the all-rookie first team and really establishing himself as a good player. In 2005, Wade and Shaq helped Miami get to the NBA Finals and beat Dallas where Wade would win Finals MVP. In 2010 Wade teams with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to four straight NBA Finals and 2 more NBA championships. During his time in Miami Wade has been a 12-time All-Star, 2-time All NBA first team, and 2009 NBA scoring champ.
In the summer of 2006, Wade did the unthinkable and signed with the Chicago Bulls. After a roller-coaster first season in Chicago, the Bulls beat by Boston in the playoffs. Then the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and reached an agreement on a buyout with Wade. A brief stint in Cleveland with his buddy LeBron James ending with him being dealt back to Miami in a trade deadline deal. Wade has re-signed for his 16th season with Miami which figures to possibly be his last year in the NBA.
Franchise ranks: 1st in points, 2nd in points per game, 4th in rebounds, 1st in assists, 5th in assist per game, 1st in steals, 2nd in blocks
In 30 seasons, the Heat have been a fortunate franchise with countless playoff runs and 3 titles. In coming up with my list the top 2 were easy. After that, Mourning and Hardaway had to be there and Shaq led them to a title. Glen Rice narrowly missed my list.
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