Xavien Howard was so incredibly good for the Miami Dolphins in 2020 that he nearly wasn't a Dolphin in 2021. Howard had ten interceptions last season — a performance that garnered him Defensive Player of the Year consideration, and, eventually, as a reward, a contract restructuring just before this year's preseason. He isn't just the best player on the Miami Dolphins, he's the best cornerback in the National Football League. His ball-hawking skills and knack for breaking up opponents' plans makes him a player no opposing quarterback wants to see when trying to find an open receiver. Before Howard had some help on defense, they just didn't bother. Teams avoided him. That became impossible last season, and the results were about what one would expect from Howard, who will surely be welcomed into the Miami Dolphins Ring of Honor after he retires.

Scoring 58 points for the Florida Panthers in last year's shortened, 50-game season was fantastic, but statistics don't begin to sum up what Aleksander Barkov meant to the Panthers in 2020 — and in every other season he's taken the ice for the club since they took him with the second overall pick in the 2013 National Hockey League draft. Barkov brings legitimacy to hockey in South Florida every time he takes the ice. He's a player who'd start and star on any NHL team. And in one of the weirdest seasons any hockey player, or fan for that matter, could ever imagine, Barkov provided one of his greatest performances — and one for the Panthers to build on going forward.

If there was ever a doubt as to who is the Miami Heat's best player, it was put to rest when Jimmy Butler put his new team on his back on the way to the NBA Finals last year against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Not two months later, Butler was asked to do it all over again, reporting for duty and giving it his all. While the season didn't turn out as expected, Butler provided absurd numbers: 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists a game — all on a body that was begging for rest every night. Now, rested, you can be sure Butler, Bam Adebayo, and newcomer Kyle Lowry, will be back on the court next month to right the Heat ship.

Gonzalo Higuaín is a pro's pro, the sort of soccer player Inter Miami craved upon joining Major League Soccer last year. Coming over from Europe last fall, the Argentinian native showed the sort of urgency on the pitch that made him a coveted commodity for David Beckham's group. While the goals didn't come as often as Higuaín or his new squad would have liked, his leadership allowed — and continues to allow — younger players to grow into their roles in Major League Soccer. In 2021, the goals have started to come from Higuaín, which proves his presence is beginning to make a difference, and it seems 2020 actually may have been the beginning.

The Miami Marlins have lacked swagger for some time. Losing will do that to a team. It's hard to strut around the diamond or flip bats when you're coming out on the wrong end of the score every night. Then 22-year-old shortstop Jasrado Hermis Arrington Chisholm, AKA Jazz Chisholm, Jr., arrived last September — and all that changed. Scores no longer mattered when it came to swagger. Confidence had nothing to do with the scoreboard. Marlins games were fun to watch again, even if the outcome wasn't the one fans had hoped for. A top Arizona Diamondbacks prospect the Marlins received in return in a 2019 trade for pitcher Zac Gallen, the Bahamian-born Chisholm has injected unabashed flair back to a game badly in need of just such a boost. He's worth the price of admission to a Marlins game all by himself, and he's just getting started. Once the Marlins core solidifies, watch out.

Last season he finished second in total and solo tackles to his twin brother and fellow defensive back Richard Dames, Rishard is winning over Conference USA football analysts as the top defensive player on the Golden Panthers. The redshirt junior has recorded 89 tackles, including 10 for a loss, one sack, 6 interceptions and broken up 10 passes during his three seasons at FIU. He was a big reason FIU ranked 15th nationally in defense and fourth in passing yards allowed in Conference USA. Like his twin, he's a Miami native who graduated from Booker T. Washington High in Overtown.

To say 2020 wasn't exactly the easiest, or most normal, year to be an NCAA basketball player would be an understatement. Between game cancellations and travels during COVID, the challenges seemingly never stopped. Neither did Isaiah Wong, though. He played in every game the Miami Hurricanes played, and he played well. Wong averaged 17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game, playing a team-high average of 35.5 minutes a night. In a season of difficult circumstances — one that won't count against his eligibility — he shot up many areas in the Hurricanes record books. His play, and leadership, were vital to a team that badly needed availability, not just ability. Wong will be back this season to build on his 2020, and, if all goes well, continue to make his mark in the annals of Hurricane hoops.

The Miami Hurricanes were missing a lot of things in 2020, but a leader wasn't one of them. D'Eriq King was in the Heisman Trophy conversation for much of the year, on a team that managed to disappoint in the end. Before losing his season to a knee injury, King threw for 2,600 yards and 27 touchdowns (four rushing). His play shone all season, including an incredible 5 touchdown, 430-yard performance against North Carolina State in a thrilling 44-41 win. King not only stabilized the Miami program in 2020, but he gave Manny Diaz some room to get it back on track. Entering 2021, Miami is ranked #16 in the nation. If they are to improve on that, it will be because D'Eriq King played as well as he did in 2020.

Mike Cugno is young, handsome, and provides the best sports coverage in South Florida. Looks, affability, talent — it's borderline annoying! A local boy who attended Miami's Columbus High School and Florida State University before joining CBS in 2014, Cugno is exactly the sort of source fans want on the beat. He's seemingly everywhere at once, but always back inside your television by the end of the day. From covering the latest Dolphins training camp news to appearing on The Hoch and Crowder Show afternoons on 790 The Ticket (WAXY-AM 790) to heading back to the CBS studio, Cugno seemingly does not stop. That sort of grind is what took him from a producer to a South Florida mainstay at CBS so early in his career. Nothing beats homegrown talent.

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

Everyone knows the best activity to engage in while it's raining is staying in bed and bingeing true-crime docuseries on your laptop. But, God help you, the kids can't shut up about how bored they are and you've threatened to put them up for adoption so many times they know for sure it's a bluff. So pack some snacks and head to the Frost Museum to let them burn some energy. The museum has plenty of things to see and do, including a three-level aquarium partially exposed to the elements, but still offers plenty of coverage to shield visitors from the rain. The 250-seat planetarium provides a chance for some shuteye as the young'uns marvel at the 8K projection and surround sound. And then there are the continually rotating exhibitions that guarantee you'll be back the next time you wish you weren't responsible for other human beings. For the time being, you can head home and drink an entire bottle of red wine while watching Too Hot to Handle. (No judgment.)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®