Luckily for Miami Heat fans, the NBA offseason feels the shortest of any of the major league breaks. The NBA Finals end toward the end of June, the NBA Draft follows soon after, the free agency rumor mill keeps us busy until August, and before you know it, the preseason is back in October. It honestly feels like the NBA has become a year-round sport.
That said, we're still getting a little bored over here. It's already been two months since the Miami Heat last played a game, so excuse us while we deal with the withdrawal.
The downtime provides a chance to take a look back before we move forward. Now is as good a time as any to reflect on all the great memories the Miami Heat has given us and to celebrate the players who have come through the organization since 1988.
So here's our shot at the ten best players in Miami Heat history. Agree or disagree about where they rank — at least we can all agree that it did not suck watching these guys pull on a Miami Heat jersey.
1. Dwyane Wade. This really shouldn't be a hard choice. If you think it should be that other guy, stop. Dwyane Wade now, and likely forever, is the greatest player to ever play for the Miami Heat. Trust your heart. It will never lie to you.
Wade is considered arguably the third-best two guard in NBA history, so yeah, he's probably going to top this list. Three championship banners hang in the American Airlines Arena rafters thanks to Wade — not just because of his play on the court, but also his player-GM recruiting abilities off it. Number two on this list never plays for the Heat if Wade doesn't.
2. LeBron James. OK, listening to our hearts was fun, but now we address the fact that the greatest player to ever play basketball (@ me!) played four glorious seasons in Miami. LeBron James is not of this planet, and the Heat is forever blessed that he chose to spend four seasons of his legendary career in South Florida.
Four straight NBA Finals. Two championships. Two NBA MVP awards. Two NBA Finals MVP awards. If any other player on this list did that in 15 seasons, he'd be at the top of all-time great Miami Heat legends. LeBron James did it in 48 months.
3. Shaquille O'Neal. Before Pat Riley snagged Shaq in a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat was just a cute franchise that had its share of playoff moments but never made it to the NBA Finals, much less won a title. It can be argued Shaq was the most critical non-draft player acquisition in Heat history. Without the Shaq era, there is likely no Big Three era.
Shaq should have won an NBA MVP award, but Steve Nash stole it because of reasons we won't talk about here. Shaq was robbed. There were ups and downs during his Heat tenure, but in the end, it was arguably the most important four-year stretch in Heat history.
4. Alonzo Mourning. If Shaq is "arguably" the most significant acquisition in Miami Heat history, the other player in that argument is Mourning. Before Pat Riley traded Glen Rice to the Hornets for Mourning, the Heat was an underdog franchise few took seriously. After Mourning got here, the Heat became a team nobody wanted to see because it meant 48 minutes of ass-kicking up and down the court.
Mourning played 11 seasons across two separate and very different stints with the Heat. If you want to credit one player for starting this #HeatCulture thing, Mourning is the guy.
5. Chris Bosh. This list is not all about stats. If it were just about numbers, there would be some shuffling to do. This is about players' importance to the franchise and the fan base. Many players can average 20 points a season. Few can mean what Bosh meant to the Heat from 2010-2014.
Before Bosh joined the Heat, he was the guy in Toronto. He was on his way to being an All-Star. He could have signed with anyone in the summer of 2010. Bosh chose to join LeBron and Wade in Miami in the name of winning, and in the process, agreed to be the third option, at best, on a historically great team.
It paid off. Bosh did the little things, and his character was invaluable to the Heat during its down times. Without Bosh, the Heat isn't the Heat. The Big Three era is entirely different. Nothing is the same.
6. Udonis Haslem. Repeat after me: This list is not about numbers. Udonis Haslem's career transcends numbers. Stats do not matter when discussing the importance of UD.
There is a reason that when LeBron, Wade, and Bosh decided to team up in Miami back in 2010 they all took millions less than expected to leave room for the Heat to re-sign Udonis Haslem. He's the heart of the Miami Heat. Rank organs and tell me where you put your heart on the list. OK, then. That's why UD is so high on this one.
Damn the numbers. Udonis has been in Miami going on two decades. He will be here in some fashion until he no longer wants to be. He could buy the Heat, and the fans would throw a pots-and-pans party. UD is the Miami Heat.
7. Tim Hardaway. Before there was the Big Three era or Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade, there was Alonzo Mourning and his swaggering point guard running mate, Tim Hardaway. When Pat Riley landed Hardaway from the Golden State Warriors in 1995, the entire franchise changed. Yes, Mourning was the most important player on those '90s Miami Heat teams, but Tim Hardaway was the car that drove the team, while Mourning played the part of the engine.
Hardaway's bravado and crossover three-point daggers are what first made fans realize the Heat was no longer just a fun startup, but a team with elite players capable of taking the franchise all the way. It didn't happen then, but Hardaway got the Heat closer than they had ever been and made Heat games a must-see every night for six incredible years.
8. Glen Rice. The original Miami Heat star was Glen Rice. Sure, there was Rony Seikaly before the Heat traded for Rice, but Seikaly never played at Rice's level. Rice was a problem for other teams. He was the first Heat player other teams feared. Steve Smith was terrific, but other teams weren't game-planning for him. Rice ended his career with more than 1,500 threes over a stellar 15 years.
Glen Rice changed the Miami Heat franchise. Looking back, he was a steppingstone from the earliest Miami Heat days to the Alonzo Mourning-Tim Hardaway era that led to the Shaq era that resulted in the Big 3 era. Glen Rice is why everything happened. Thanks, Glen!
9. Rony Seikaly. This isn't about stats! Rony is the OG! There is no list of greatest Miami Heat players of all time without a mention of Rony Seikaly. At one point, Seikaly was all we had. He had glorious hair and battled his ass off down low. He meant much more to the franchise than many players with longer, more successful, stints.
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Seikaly was the Heat's first-ever college pick. He was their first "go-to" player. In 1990, he was the Miami Heat. That is worth a lot more than most players in Heat history.
10. Grant Long. The man who was Udonis Haslem before we met UD: Grant Long, Mr. Take Charge. It may be hard for 20-something Heat fans to believe, but there was a time when the Miami Heat was nobody in the NBA, and all the team could rely on was hard work and grit. Games normally ended with a loss, but Long and his hustle and effort made tuning in every night a pleasure.
For seven seasons, Grant Long molded what is now referred to as "Heat Culture." He came to work every day and put in the time and labor to get results well above what his talent should have acquired. He was the original Miami Heat scrapper.