The Five 2018 South Florida Sports People of the Year

The Five 2018 South Florida Sports People of the Year
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
As we near the end of 2018, it's time to reflect on the sports year that was. Although it hasn't been the most memorable of years for Miami, there were a handful of stars worth singling out.

These five 2018 sports people of the year made an otherwise unspectacular 2018 worth caring about with amazing saves, astounding shot fakes, and incredible inspiration.

1. Roberto Luongo. Luongo isn't just the greatest-all-things-considered Florida Panthers player of all time, he's a genuine member of the community. Never was that more apparent than following the unthinkable Valentine's Day tragedy in which 17 people lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland this year.

The Panthers' beloved goaltender and longtime Parkland resident took to the ice to address the fans, express his condolences, and bring home how much work remains to ensure tragic history doesn't repeat itself. It was a touching moment from an unexpected place. At the time, every soothing word counted for people trying to wrap their heads around what had happened.

Besides being a terrific net-minder and a rock for a franchise that badly needs leadership, Luongo delivers much more value to Broward County as a resident. In the aftermath of the Douglas tragedy, that was apparent.

2. Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade is the equivalent of a Miami sports blankie. Every September through May or June since 2013, he has performed on our televisions and in the arena next door to Bayside Marketplace. He makes us comfortable. He's reliable. He's a constant. And he will be gone forever in just a few short months.

Wade returned to Miami for what he's referring to as #OneLastDance to give the fans, and himself, a chance to say a proper goodbye. That's right: every single day, another farewell. Whether the Heat misses the playoffs or wins the NBA Finals this year, the chances to say adios are evaporating.

Heat fans getting this extra year to enjoy the greatest athlete in Miami sports history performing is truly an all-time memory to cherish.

3. Kenny Stills. It would take a 5,000-word-long read to fully express even a small percentage of what Kenny Stills has put into the Miami community this year. It would take a book to just scratch the surface of what he's accomplished for the country. Still's social activism is genuine. You can see it in his face and feel it in your bones. It's unrelentingly real.

He makes you want to be a part of it. From speaking to police about ways to bond with communities that have lost trust to visiting children's hospitals on his days off to food drives, there are reasons the NFL made Stills one of 32 nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which represents the league's commitment to philanthropy and community impact.

Notice we haven't mentioned Stills is Miami's most dependable wide receiver. That's because his work on the field, which is impressive, isn't even among the top reasons Miami is a better place for his being here.

4. Albert Wilson. Another Dolphins player?! This isn't even about football. Although like Stills, Wilson is pretty good at that, too.

Before Albert Wilson was lost for the season after a leg injury, he was straight-up espresso for the Dolphins offense. It seemed every time the defense gave up a big play, Wilson would answer with an explosion of his own. He was a huge reason the Dolphins got off to a 3-0 start, and since then, the Dolphins have lacked the sort of spark he brought to the field.

That's the on-field stuff. Like Kenny Stills, Wilson is so much more than a wide receiver. He's making a difference in the community. Even while injured, he's out raising money for charity, especially orphans or those connected to foster children. Wilson was adopted, so he knows what it means to be a foster kid.

Albert Wilson is a good one. Miami is lucky to have both him and Kenny Stills out making a difference in the community every week.

5. Erik Spoelstra. Life could give Erik Spoelstra mangos and he would somehow make lemonade. He's that good. This year, the Heat struggled to open the season, were inundated with calls to tank for a better draft pick, and all they've done since is skyrocket in the Eastern Conference to one of the top six teams. More talented teams are doing less. That's the Spoelstra special. He does more with more and more with less.

Spo just won his 500th game, and the end of his coaching career is nowhere in sight. He might coach the Heat for three more decades. Coach Spo is one of the most special people Miami sports has ever had. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi