The summer of 2010 was billed as the biggest free-agency class in NBA history. Highlighting the class was Cleveland's LeBron James, Toronto's Chris Bosh, and Miami's own Dwyane Wade. There were other big names, to be sure, such as Carlos Boozer and Amare Stoudemire. But none bigger than James, Wade, and Bosh. The national media's speculation about where the three biggest fish in the pond would end up began as early as the 2009 off-season. Most had LeBron going to the New York Knicks and Bosh joining him. Others had Wade taking off to his hometown Chicago Bulls and joining forces with Derrick Rose. And through it all, there was Heat president, mastermind, and dynasty-making genius Pat Riley, biding his time and plotting his moves behind the scenes. With his seemingly Jedi mind-trick powers, Riley was able to re-sign Wade, brought Bosh into the fold, and, in what will forever be deemed the ultimate sports coup, persuaded LeBron James to bring his talents to South Beach. All three superstars accepted less money than they would have made elsewhere. All three dedicated themselves to putting aside their egos to form the first NBA superteam, much to non-Heat fans' chagrin.
After growing up in gang-infested Little Haiti and fighting insurgents in Iraq, Mackens Semerzier is now chasing MMA glory. The 30-year-old fighter is the first Haitian-American to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, making his debut this past March 26 by defeating opponent Alex Caceres with a submission rear-naked choke hold. In five of his six victories since turning pro in 2008, Semerzier has choked out his adversaries. In a Miami Herald profile last year, Semerzier credited his mother Rose for keeping his nose clean even though he had friends who stole. "My mom would've kicked my butt," he told the Herald. The up-and-coming mixed martial artist was a wrestler in high school, placing sixth in the Class 6A Florida high school wrestling tournament in 1999. A year after graduating, he enlisted with the U.S. Marines. In 2003, while deployed in Iraq, the Corps instituted a martial arts program that taught soldiers, including Semerzier, how to apply submission-like guillotine chokes. The Miami native now resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he is training to become the top featherweight MMA fighter in the UFC.
Palm Island Park
With opulent mansions facing the aquamarine waters of Biscayne Bay as your backdrop, you might feel like your silky ball-handling skills are being mapped for the next version of an NBA Street videogame. Tucked next to a kiddie playground and a tennis court for the wealthy residents of Palm Island, the park's basketball court is usually vacant except for enterprising ballers with a knack for finding a secluded net for a quick pick-up game. And because the City of Miami Beach maintains the park, don't expect any hassles over exclusive rights from the island's rich inhabitants. It is free and open to the public, with ample gratis street parking as well. Just take the MacArthur Causeway to Palm Island and make an immediate left after rolling through the Miami Beach Police-manned guard gate. But get there before sundown. The park has no lights.
Downtown Soccer
Traditionally, Miami hasn't been soccer central. Cubans brought their passion for pelota — not fútbol — when they fled Fidel, while most South Florida Anglos would rather go fishing or watch NASCAR than take in this beautiful game. In recent years, however, hundreds of thousands of soccer-crazy Central and South Americans have flooded into South Florida. Strangely, good, reliable games are still few and far between. Unless you want to trek to Kendall, you're usually shit out of luck. Now, however, a flurry of new fields in the heart of the city offers hope. A block from the Miami River in Overtown, the new Downtown Soccer complex offers six-on-six games on soft synthetic turf. Hourly field rental rates vary from $120 in the evenings to $100 late at night. At $8 to $10 per person, the price is competitive with other venues around town, but what sets Downtown Soccer apart are the well-organized tournaments and relaxed atmosphere. Founded by Colombia-born brothers Randy and Pablo Rendón on an empty lot, Downtown Soccer offers weekly pick-up games or, for the more competitive, costlier tournaments that see the winning team take home as much as $1,500 cash. Most important, the field is open until 2 a.m., much later than most of its competitors, and serves snacks and beer. Neighbors might complain about the noise, but Downtown Soccer is a much-needed slice of South America in this Cuban-centric city.
Doral Golf Resort & Spa Hotel
You're probably wondering what business an alt-weekly like New Times has setting foot in a fancy golf resort. Don't let appearances fool you — we're a classy bunch and love nothing more than 18 holes on a warm spring day. However, we're amateur at best and need all the help we can get. Twenty bucks at Doral gets you unlimited range balls, access to its putting surface, and the opportunity to work on your short game. It's a world-renowned facility as well as home of the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Jim McLean Golf School. Don't feel like carrying a bucket of balls to your practice tee? No worries — the balls are already set up for you. Plus they're Callaway balls. Not to condone petty larceny, but they come in handy when your golf bag's ball pouch feels a little light. Oh, c'mon, your bags are probably filled with range balls. Don't judge.
Bayshore Municipal Golf Course
Like an emerald snake, the opulent Miami Beach Golf Club rambles along Alton Road, all burbling fountains and tightly trimmed greens and golfers in designer Ralph Lauren polos with $7,000 clubs slung over their shoulder. Damn them! What about the rest of us? The schmucks with four clubs from Goodwill and a bag of used Titleists deserve a chance to practice our best Happy Gilmore swings too, even if we don't have a few hundred bucks to drop on a tee time. Don't fret, thrift store hackers — just keep walking south past those freakishly green fairways, hang a left at Publix, and trot a couple blocks north on Prairie Avenue. Within a good five-iron strike of the Miami Beach Golf Club, there's another, quieter course. Sure, the greens are a little shaggier, and sometimes an odd plastic bag billows across the fairway, but here's the thing: This course is free. The semisecret Bayshore Municipal Golf Course is a par 3, owned by the city, and awaiting a major relandscaping in the next year or two. In the meantime, it's open for business to anyone who wanders in with a club, a ball or two, and a dream of taking down Shooter McGavin on the last hole.
Kirk Munroe Tennis Center
The Kirk Munroe Tennis Center has no pro shop to get your racket strung or vending machines with Gatorade and Evian to parch your thirst between sets (a couple of old-school water fountains serving tap will have to do). The practice/warm-up wall looks pretty beat up, and there's no dedicated parking — only meters. But if you like to play tennis without the pretense that surrounds the sport, you can't do better than the five hard courts smack-dab in the middle of Coconut Grove. All the basics are covered — correct tension on the nets, ample lighting, and no holes in the surrounding fences — but what this court does better than any other in the county is mix player levels and backgrounds. You get a smattering of tourists and uppity folks from affluent parts of the Grove, but you also get working-class grinders from the surrounding neighborhood. Like to play early or late into the night? Good luck finding better hours and prices. From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, City of Miami residents pay only $3 per person per hour, and nonresidents pay only a dollar more. Senior-circuit ballers get an hour for just a buck, while juniors (anybody under 17) can spare-change their way to 60 minutes of tennis for just a couple of quarters. The center and surrounding park received a face-lift a couple of years ago, with a vita course and playground added so you can make a family day out of your match. Or lose the fam and make the short trek to Sandbar for a Heineken after you dispatch your foe.
Amelia Earhart Park
"Where is the damn hole?" The question echoes again across the scorched grass of the 18-hole disc golf course inside Amelia Earhart Park, a rolling expanse of forest and lakes on the north end of Hialeah. In theory, that query should be a bad thing: Disc golfing — which is like regular golf but with flying discs instead of balls and metal baskets rather than holes — should be about hucking drivers into the distance (and sipping beer as you watch), not hunting for the next, poorly marked hole. But the challenge in Earhart is a testament as much to the creativity of the course's designers as to the park's lack of signage. On the front eight, holes are scattered amid shady pine trees and dense shrubbery, while the back eight loops around a wide, rippling lake. Best of all, the last hole sits atop a huge man-made mound of earth and tires surrounded by trees, requiring a crazy trick shot from a high berm across the forest. Along the way, especially on sunny weekends, you'll also deal with a uniquely Miami hazard: hordes of families barbecuing while blasting merengue and reggaeton along the lake. Think of it as an extra degree of difficulty, and you'll have one of the best disc golf rounds of your life. Just try not to hit abuelita on that par 5.
Matheson Hammock Park
Photo by Chris Garcia / Courtesy of the GMCVB – MiamiandBeaches.com
There's nothing more important to Miami's ecology than mangroves. These swampy forests provide nutrients to depleted waters, cover for endangered critters, and even build land. But unless you fish, it's hard to get up close and personal with mangroves. That's why the next time you take to the pavement for a jog, head to Matheson Hammock. This 351-acre park, located just off Old Cutler Road and adjacent to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, has a path that takes you through some of the deepest mangrove brush in the city. You can see, smell, and feel nature in the subtropics. The park is more than just mangroves, though; the trail proceeds through a picturesque picnic area complete with lakes and old coral rock shelters, and on to Matheson Hammock's atoll pool on Biscayne Bay. The path wends around the pool, which looks more like a beachfront lake filled with seawater (also an underrated sunbathing spot sans pretense), past a marina, by a boat ramp, and even alongside the best kite-surfing spot in Miami. If you feel overheated during your jog, cool off with a dip in the bay or pool, or hop into one of the public showers. There's also a concession stand. Don't forget to bring bug spray, or be prepared to run really fast, because mangroves are breeding grounds for skeeters. Parking at Matheson's entrance is free but costs $5 next to the atoll pool. Park hours are sunrise to sunset.
The more polite sectors of society might frown upon alcohol consumption before 5 p.m. But what if you combine it with physical exercise and an essentially green activity? That kind of virtuousness cancels out the points you lose for the day-drinking, right? Good thing we have the Beer Snob Bicycle Pub Crawl, an occasional Saturday group ride, usually through South Beach and downtown, that cancels out the perils of drinking and mass commuting in one fell swoop. Join your fellow two-wheeled warriors from the afternoon to early evening for a tour of fine establishments that are not only bike-friendly but also wallet-friendly. Stops on the circuit have included sudsy SoBe staples such as Zeke's Roadhouse on Lincoln — where everything is $4! — and the Abbey, as well as newcomers on the mainland, including the DRB, Elwood's Pub, and the Filling Station. Zip past all the car-driving losers burning gas, stuck in traffic, and blowing money on parking, and use the cash you save for an extra brew. And hey, let's be real — there's a lot less of a chance of getting a pesky DUI. Still, the organizers of this informal jaunt would rather the complete scofflaws stay at home. If you want to get down on this ride, you'll have to drink responsibly, bring a bike light, and obey all traffic laws — this isn't Critical Mass, so there's no corking of traffic. Other than that, sip and enjoy. Check the Miami Bike Scene blog for upcoming dates.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®