With the well-run Miami Heat constantly giving their fans reasons to look forward, sometimes the franchise has a tendency to forget to look back at the past. Last year, the team's "Heat Lifer" campaign made us all a little nostalgic for where it all started. Back in the late '80s there was no Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. There was no Alonzo Mourning or Tim Hardaway.
But there was Glen Rice, and he was awesome. He was a star. He was the first player that truly put the Miami Heat on the SportsCenter map.
Now, it's high time for the Heat to hang Glen Rice's number 41 in the American Airlines Arena rafters. Here is why.
Glen Rice was undeniably the franchise's first star.
With all due respect to (DJ) Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice was the original Miami Heat star. Thousands of Miami Heat fans not only became a fan of the team when Glen Rice came to Miami out of Michigan in 1989, but they became a fan of the NBA period. This is during a time where the biggest and baddest show in town was the Miami Dolphins, and a distant second-place was any news about the Miami Dolphins — but Glen Rice changed all that. Many of the same Heat fans buying Justise Winslow jerseys this season were the same South Florida kids in the late '80s and early '90s opening presents this time of year with a number 41 jersey inside.
Glen Rice is like the Big Bang that started the entire Miami Heat universe.
Without Glen Rice, there is no Alonzo Mourning. Without Alonzo Mourning, there might not be the foundation of Miami Heat basketball that makes it what it is today. If Glen Rice was the Miami Heat gateway drug, then the Mourning-Heat era was the hard stuff that got us all hooked for life. All of it was possible because Glen Rice was so dominant in a Miami Heat uniform. Rice was coming off a 1994-95 season where he averaged 22.3 points a game (tenth in the league), made 185 three point shots (sixth in the league), and beat Reggie Miller in the All-Star three-point contest. His value had never been higher, and it enabled the Heat to use him as the main cog in a six-player trade that brought Alonzo Mourning to Miami.
The Heat retired No. 23 for Michael Jordan. We still don't get it.
So this is a thing that happened, and we need to address it here, for obvious reasons. Listen, we get it — Pat Riley at the time wanted to honor the greatest player to ever play the game. We will never doubt the great Pat Riley, so we just accept it. All we are saying as Heat fans is that if you have an opponent's number in the rafters, it might be time to get your franchises first real superstar's up there as well.
C'mon, nobody wears number 41 anymore, anyway. No Heat player has worn number 41 since Rice left the team, and that can't be a coincidence.
Glen Rice was the original reason to never miss a Heat game.
Back in 1995, a 123-117 Miami Heat victory over the Orlando Magic had us all holding our butts in disbelief. Glen Rice scored a career-high 56 points — a franchise record that stood for years — and he instantly made it apparent just what levels of awesome he was capable of. The box score of this game is absurd. Rice made 20 of 27 shots, including seven threes.
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The game Rice had on April 15, 1995 forever made Heat fans think twice before they skipped a Heat telecast.
"Heat Lifer" means loving this team before it was easy.
It's easy to be a Miami Heat fan now. This is luxurious! Back when Glen Rice was the biggest thing Heat fans had going, not so much! If we are being honest here, Heat Lifer means loving this squad before even Pat Riley. It means going to see games at the big pink elephant in a sketch neighborhood. It means not knowing if the team would win a game that month, but you kept watching. It means everything that was the late '80s and mid-'90s. It means a whole lot of Glen Rice, and sometimes not that much else. But that was OK.
It's time to retire Glen Rice's jersey.