When you're creating your montage of Duke Johnson season highlights to upload to YouTube, you should probably soundtrack it to something like the Foo Fighters' "My Hero" or Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" or, if you have questionable taste, that "Hero" song that the lead singer of Nickelback did. Whatever the case, Johnson was certainly the hero of an uncertain Miami Hurricanes season. With a team relying so heavily on freshman and sophomore talent, along with the soap opera that has become the NCAA's investigation into Nevin Shapiro's claims still ongoing, the Hurricanes seemed as if they were entering this season with a black cloud looming above. In its first game, the team looked like it would fall to Boston College. Then, in the second quarter, Johnson, a true freshman, stunned fans with a 54-yard touchdown. A quarter later, Johnson topped that with a 56-yard score, and No. 8 didn't stop running all season. He led the team with 947 rushing yards and became the team's first ACC Rookie of the Year. The best part is he'll be back next year.

The Miami Hurricanes men's basketball squad's near-magical season was such a team effort that it's difficult to single out one Cane to honor. Sure, we could make a strong case for explosive point guard Shane Larkin, but we're hoping that withholding this very prestigious alt-weekly Best Of award will motivate the sophomore to forgo the NBA, return to Coral Gables, and win it next year. That's not to say Kenny Kadji doesn't deserve it, though. The senior forward, who transferred to the University of Miami from the Gators after sustaining a back injury, dropped 25 pounds and blossomed under head coach Jim Larrañaga. He put up 12.9 points a game this year and averaged 6.8 rebounds, proving he was one of the team's biggest offensive and defensive threats. We just wish that, like Larkin, he was eligible to return next year.

In the wild, the gulo gulo (commonly called the wolverine) is a ferocious little beast capable of killing prey (and even predators) almost twice his size. And when trapped in a cage, he becomes even nastier — just like five-foot-ten lightweight dervish Mike "the Wolverine" Rio. After proving his relentlessness and grit as a two-time Florida state wrestling champ out of Miami Southridge High School, Rio tore into a pro career with a furious six-fight win streak, ripping through a mess of regional opponents by TKO and rear-naked choke. In 2011, though, he suffered his first career defeat in a Championship Fighting Alliance decision loss to Mexican grappler Efraín Escudero, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's Ultimate Fighter 8 winner. Still, the Wolverine had not been tamed. And over the past two years, he has clawed his way through a stint on the Ultimate Fighter 15 (failing to qualify for the finale only because of two broken ribs), inked a UFC contract, and notched another three wins. In December 2012, Rio made his debut in the octagon against John Cofer and snatched up the victory by cranking his victim's arm till he cried out, tapped, and quit. Yet even as a submission specialist, this 155-pound beast has won four of his nine career wins by KO. And that's what makes Rio so dangerous. He's equally vicious rolling on the floor and throwing punches. Maybe he'll snap his prey's limbs. Or maybe he'll just knock him the hell out. Either way, the Wolverine almost always wins.

His fists are worth $750,000. And his smile is gold — literally. After winning two medallas de oro fighting for the Cuban boxing team at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, Guillermo "El Chacal" Rigondeaux returned to the island, resumed his ascetic training schedule, and lived like a common campesino. He was a national hero. He was even — according to another Cuban boxing legend and two-time Olympic champ, Héctor Vinent — "the greatest boxer who ever lived." But he was still broke. And his prize medallions were worth only a couple hundred pesos. So Guillermo settled on fixing his teeth. "I melted my Olympic medals," he once explained, "into my mouth." A few years later, though, finally fed up with a life of poverty and the lack of opportunity in Cuba, Rigondeaux decided to defect. And just like so many of the island's fighters over the past six decades (not to mention several world-class Cuban contemporaries, including Yuriorkis Gamboa and Erislandy Lara), he moved to Miami. But already 29, Guillermo was turning pro at an advanced age. And unlike Gamboa's and Lara's careers, Rigondeaux's was starting slow. Despite being widely recognized as one of the best amateur fighters of the past half-century, Rigondeaux stands only five feet five inches tall. He weighs 122 pounds. And he isn't a headhunter. He is, however, a preternaturally skilled boxer with serious punching power. So over the past couple of years, he quietly compiled a perfect 12-0 record. He won the WBA Super Bantamweight belt. And then he broke out, methodically maiming Filipino-American champ Nonito Donaire (a WBO titleholder who's been almost universally heralded as a top-five pound-for-pound fighter) over the course of a 12-round bout in April. He won the unanimous decision. He cashed a $750,000 check. He flashed that gold smile. And even the naysayers were forced to admit that "El Chacal" is most definitely the real deal.

Brickell real estate is back, baby! Shoot yourself in the foot if you didn't grab a cut-rate condo when prices hit rock bottom. The endless traffic jams on this short span should be a constant reminder that you missed the boat. Gray monoliths have begun rising all along Eighth Street as developers have found money to build again. At any time of day, construction can squeeze the three-lane road down to only one. Work on Hong Kong-based Swire's billion-dollar Brickell CitiCentre has closed South Miami Avenue for weeks at a time. You're as likely to run into a mind-numbing traffic jam in the middle of the night or day as at rush hour.

When Dante wrote about the Ninth Circle of Hell, he could well have been describing weekend parking on South Beach. Midafternoon on a Saturday or Sunday is like a visit with Satan himself. Honking, profanity-spewing, and middle-finger-flying are all par for the gridlocked course. But the Seventh Street Garage is a gift from above. For $1 per hour (cheaper than parking on the street), you can leave your ride a stone's throw from everything you need for a successful Saturday afternoon — Wet Willie's, the News Café, volleyball courts, and the brilliant-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. There are 646 spots available, but unsurprisingly, Jersey Shore wannabes and fanny-pack-wearing tourists sometimes catch on as the day progresses, so it's key to arrive early; i.e., before 1 p.m.. OK, that's early, but dragging yourself out of bed is so worth it. Hell, you can always catch a little snooze in the sunshine.

InterContinental Miami

Let's face it. Downtown Miami isn't that much fun. Despite lots of new businesses and condos, it's mostly quiet at night unless you're visiting one of the clubs on NE 11th Street. But wait! What's that on the waterfront? A 19-story-high dancing girl? Yeah, the InterContinental Hotel, which stands at the corner of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, just completed a $30 million upgrade. It not only improved suites and added a first-class restaurant in the lobby but it also installed hundreds of computer-controlled lights in the exterior windows. Now, it can display a dancing girl with long, flowing hair. Or it can switch it to an erupting volcano. Or it can say "Welcome to Miami" in big block letters. And you can enjoy it for free.

It is said that there's nothing like going on safari in Africa and watching the sun rise on the Serengeti as wild animals roam the African plains. Here's the problem — it takes two whole days and lots of green to get to Kenya. But what most Miamians don't realize is that they can take a wildlife safari just as exotic without ever hopping on an airplane. Everglades National Park comprises about 1.5 million acres of land and is home to more than 350 species of birds, 27 species of snakes, 40 species of mammals, and hundreds of other reptiles and amphibians. The "River of Grass" has been called one of the great biological wonders of the world. Unlike many other wildlife areas, much of the Everglades cannot be accessed by foot or car — only by airboat. Fortunately, an airboat is one of the coolest modes of transportation ever. A flat-bottomed boat, powered by a gasoline engine with a big propeller, is fast, fun, and a little deafening. A two-hour private airboat safari for two starts at $375 and traverses about 17 miles of a secluded section called the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, which is abundant with wildlife. Are you a birder? Do you want to be surrounded by alligators? Or do you simply want to go fast? Tell your captain what you want to see and he'll tailor the safari to suit. Although no animal sightings are guaranteed, you are sure to have a wild time without ever getting your passport stamped.

Parents, rejoice! Entertaining your children no longer has to be at the expense of your sanity. Play Au Lait is among South Florida's largest active play gyms. It'll make Junior happy and active in a safe, clean, environment while you enjoy delicacies from the gourmet café or get some work done on the free Wi-Fi. Three play areas separated by age are designed for having fun, releasing stress, and building healthy bodies. Parents can host catered parties or join events like Kindermusik, an educational music and movement program, or LOTUS Parent Series, a support discussion group on raising kids. You can read in peace here and sip on champagne. Yes, it has that too. Admission rates vary per age, and the price includes two adults: up to 24 months old, $9.95; 2 to 5 years old, $11.95; and 6 to 12 years, $18.95. It's open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And hey, with summer here, there's also camp for age groups 4 to 6 and 7 to 9, and a preschool prep camp for 2- and 3-year-olds.

Wynwood Walls
Courtesy of Wynwood Walls

OK, so you've been to the Second Saturday Art Walk, and all you can think is, I would never bring my little ones here! It's full of drinking and debauchery. Well, hold on a minute! The arts district that's south of NW 28th Street and Second Avenue is the most interesting slice of Miami. The reason isn't the galleries, it's the street art. Park near the Wynwood Walls at NW Second Avenue and 25th Street, enjoy dozens of paintings and the Wynwood Doors exhibit, then head over to NW Third Avenue and 26th Street, where you can see Eye and Fly by Scott Debus. Continue south and check out Dal East's Wireman at 31 NW 23rd St. and Ballerinas by Anthony Lister at 2300 NW Second Ave. The kids should be worn out by then, so shove 'em in the car and head for lunch and ice cream at Bayside Marketplace.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®