Best Reason to Stay for the Summer 2012 | Grilling on an island in Biscayne Bay | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

If you are an intrepid boater, you load your fishing pole, kids, and GPS and head out to sea Saturday mornings in search of wahoo. If you are more like us, you stow your Weber grill, some burgers, and maybe a few dogs and putter around Biscayne Bay for five minutes before pushing up on a spit of island, jumping into the water, and relaxing a bit. Or a lot. Maybe you head to a small island just south of Oleta River State Park and cook while your buddies or little ones paddle around in the water. Biscayne Bay is peppered with small picnic islands. Some — such as Monument Island — are popping party scenes with loud reggaeton, while many others are tiny, quiet oases. Wherever you stop, you'll drink a few beers and fall asleep afterward, and when you wake, you'll be as red as a lobster that fell into a pot of boiling water. But you'll be happy. And this is why summer in the Magic City is grand.

FLA Live Arena photo

In the mysterious alchemy of professional sports, it's often damn near impossible to determine what turns a losing streak into a glittering championship run. But in the case of South Florida's suddenly successful hockey team, the special ingredient is clear. When the Florida Panthers signed Tomás Fleischmann last summer, the left winger's career was in jeopardy. He had shown flashes of offensive-minded brilliance with several other teams, only to miss large chunks of the two previous seasons with potentially fatal blood clots. The Panthers were also in bad shape, earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first NHL team to fail to make the playoffs for ten straight seasons. But ever since signing the 28-year-old Czech, the Panthers seem to have finally grown a furry feline pair. The team fought its way back into the postseason this year thanks in large part to Fleischmann, who during the regular season led the team in shots on goal, goals, and points, and finished third in assists. The left-winger played in every single game.

Courtesy of the GMCVB

The most disorienting, kinetic, eye-searing installment in the new Marlins Park isn't that neon-colored home-run sculpture. It's José Reyes legging out triples. Have you seen the Miami Marlins' new shortstop round three bases? The dude smiles and pants like a lab chasing a tennis ball. The stealthy Dominican kid — poached from the smoldering ruins of the New York Mets — does not do jaded. Until a few years ago, he shared an apartment with his parents in Flushing, Queens. He recently bleached his hair in tandem with the Marlins' previous shortstop — and current third baseman — Hanley Ramirez, who is apparently his new BFF. Yes, he's the kind of ballplayer you can take home to Mama. He's Wade Boggs with Vince Coleman's legs and a young Ken Griffey Jr.'s joie de vivre. If the only reason the Marlins scored Reyes from the Mets is because the Queens team was financially ruined by investing with Bernie Madoff, well, finally something good has come to Florida from a Ponzi scheme.

Michele Eve Sandberg

When the Miami Dolphins signed Reggie Bush last spring, Fins fans feared the running back would be more TMZ than, you know, good. Bush came out of the University of Southern California with promises of being the next Gale Sayers. Even though he helped the Saints win a Super Bowl, Bush became better known for his game with the ladies (especially tabloid princess Kim Kardashian) than his game on the field. When Bush arrived in Miami as a free agent, his famous ex-girlfriend had just married some basketball player, and he was expected to do nothing more than catch passes out of the backfield. Early in the season, he couldn't get anything going. It was looking like he'd gone completely bust in the aqua-and-orange. Then, midseason, Kardashian got divorced, and Bush began to tear it up. Coincidence? Nobody knows. All we know is that, at the end of it all, Bush set career highs in carries (216) and rushing yards (1,086). He also scored six touchdowns for the Dolphins, matching his career high. His 5.03 yards-per-carry average was the second highest of his career. And now he'll enter the new season as the primary back over second-year man Daniel Thomas. Bush has sparked a career renaissance in Miami.

Photo by B137

Broadcasters love when Udonis Haslem comes off the bench because it gives them an excuse to use words like hustle, heart, and power player. Another upside of Haslem checking in is the chance to glimpse the tremendous, retina-scorching tattoo of Florida carved across the big man's back. Yes, he has an outline of the entire state drawn in ink on his flesh. How's that for commitment to the home team? From a purely statistical view, Haslem's six points and seven rebounds per game don't even get him close to being the best at anything on the floor. And that's why we love him. The Miami native reps Florida hard, and you have to root for a hometown hero whose resumé includes balling in Gainesville. The Big Three may grab the headlines, but the beating heart of the Heat will always be U.D.

Photo by B137

Admit it: You think you can coach the Miami Heat. After all, how hard can it be? Three of the greatest players in the NBA suit up for the team every night. All you really need to do is kick back, grab a beer, and turn 'em loose so they can do that thing where they blast everyone else in the league into a fine powder. But three über-talented players means three massive egos. It also means keeping them happy, because there are only so many shots to be had. Then there are the role-players — the guys who think they're here doing the Big Three a favor when it's the other way around. You're also gonna want to get these guys to play defense every night, which isn't easy because all they want to do is fly around the court and slam-dunk the ball in everybody's face. This is why Erik Spoelstra is better than you for this job. Sure, the team loses every now and then (even Jordan's Bulls lost games), and that's the perfect time for you to declare to the world that Coach Spo should go. But you're wrong. Not only does he have the Heat playing the best D in the NBA, but he also convinced LeBron that he can do more damage by playing in the low post — something no coach has ever been able to persuade King James to do. Plus, Spo makes intense chipmunk faces when he gets angry, which is a bonus. Besides, at the end of the day, the Heat is the only team in Miami that's really worth watching. Unlike other local sports teams, the Heat doesn't suck or have crazy people on the roster. But mainly, it doesn't suck. And that's in very large part thanks to Erik Spoelstra and his intense-chipmunk-face-having, ego-wranglin' ways.

Best FIU Golden Panthers Football Player

T.Y. Hilton

From the moment he began his college career as an all-purpose offensive threat for Mario Cristobal's Florida International University Golden Panthers football squad, T.Y. Hilton has taken the ball to the house. The very first time the Miami Springs native touched the ball, in his 2008 debut against Kansas, he returned a punt for a touchdown. He finished his freshman season with 12 touchdowns — scoring by catching, running, and even throwing the ball — ranking third in the nation in all-purpose yards per game and garnering freshman-of-the-year honors from the Sun Belt Conference. In 2009, Hilton showed why Alabama head coach Nick Saban sang his praises when he scored on a 96-yard kickoff return against the Crimson Tide. A year later, during a game against Sun Belt rival Troy, Hilton put up 158 yards on just six carries on his way to setting a school record for most yards rushed in a game. He was a key component in the Golden Panthers' earning their first two bowl appearances in school history, each of which ended in victories. Now Hilton is going to the big show. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts so he can catch passes from overall number one pick Andrew Luck.

Brace yourself, boys, because the best college athlete in Miami is hands-down a woman. This season, Shenise Johnson wasn't just the best player on a damn-good University of Miami women's basketball team. She was one of the best players in women's b-ball history. Leading the Hurricanes in scoring (17 points per game), rebounding (8), and assists (4.4), the guard became just the second woman with at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists, and 400 steals in her college career. She and teammate Riquna Williams led the team to a 26-6 record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. But even after the season ended with a painful second-round upset by Gonzaga, Johnson kept setting records. When she was picked fifth in the WNBA draft, she became the highest-drafted player in her program's history. Johnson now brings her sweet layup and inside-outside versatility to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

At Miami Norland Senior High School, running back Randy "Duke" Johnson was so good he was bad. So good that his corkscrew sprints through opposing defenses led entire stadiums to chant his nickname — "Duuuke!" — as if booing bums off the field. So good that he ran for 2,087 yards and 27 touchdowns in his senior season, including five in the 5A state championship game (Norland annihilated Crawfordville Wakulla 38-0). And so good that he joined Tim Tebow, Travis Henry, and Daunte Culpepper as winners of the Florida Mr. Football Award. But unlike other high school prospects whose heads are turned hither and yon by competing programs, Johnson committed in the fall of his junior year to the U and hasn't looked back. Even when the Canes finished the 2010 season with three straight losses and sacked coach Randy Shannon — who had recruited Johnson — Duke stayed with the ailing program. He even helped recruit others to join new UM coach Al Golden's rebuilding project. For a team beset by the Nevin Shapiro scandal off the field and mediocrity on it, Johnson promises to carry the Canes into a brighter future. Just don't mistake those "Duuuke"s for boos.

Before fleeing in 2008 from his native Cuba — a country famous for producing Olympic-caliber wrestlers and boxers — 28-year-old Yoislandy "Cuba" Izquierdo spent his childhood training in karate and sanshou. After serving in the Cuban military, Izquierdo set off on a precarious journey, first to Spain, then to Guatemala, and finally to Mexico, where he was detained for a month before being granted political asylum in the United States. Since arriving in Miami, Izquierdo has trained at the Young Tigers Foundation in Hialeah, honing the lightening-quick striking he learned as a Cuban karate protégé and using it in another sport: mixed martial arts fighting. The lightweight MMA fighter remains undefeated with a 6-0 record, winning the majority of his bouts by knockout. After signing a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship in January, Izquierdo made his UFC debut April 14, 2012, in Stockholm, Sweden. And he isn't just a rising star — he's bringing the booming sport of MMA to Miami's Cuban-American fans. "In Cuba, we trained for the pure pleasure and joy of it," Izquierdo said in a January interview with MMA site "I just keep training. To fight with rivals better than myself and getting wins until I fight the champion in my weight class, that is my purpose."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®