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The Five Greatest Athletes in Miami Sports History
Photo by George Martinez

The Five Greatest Athletes in Miami Sports History

It's been a week, but Miami Heat fans are still coming to terms with the fact that Dwyane Wade will never play again. It's sad. On the bright side, though, that Spotify break-up playlist filled with '90s Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men songs is coming in handy again.

The cold reality is this — at the moment, Miami is without a true sports star. We're talking no active legends here. All-Stars come and go, but between Dan Marino and Dwyane Wade, Miami could claim a true, active legend resided in town since about 1984 until [checks watch] last week.

So here we are, left to pick up the pieces. The only way to move on is to look back....

Actually, that's the worst thing to do. Leave us alone. Everyone grieves differently. Give us a second, dammit.

So, in honor of living in the past, let's rank the greatest sports stars Miami has ever seen.

The Five Greatest Athletes in Miami Sports History (2)EXPAND
Photo by Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

1. Dwyane Wade. Three championships, an NBA Finals MVP award, 13 All-Star appearances, and a gold medal — Dwyane Wade's résumé is legendary. Few stars anywhere, in any sport, have accomplished as much.

It can be argued that Wade actually did more for Miami in the way of recruiting than he did on the court. Shaquille O'Neal will tell you he picked Miami because of Wade. Friendship with the great guard also delivered LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which also attracted guys like Shane Battier and Ray Allen. One can also make the case that Udonis Haslem wouldn't be who he is without the Chicago-born genius. It's a never-ending list.

Wade gets docked a few points for playing 112 games during a weird year-and-a-half hiatus after signing with the Chicago Bulls in 2016, but when you're up nine runs in the twelfth, you have some cushion for point deductions.

Dan Marino
Dan Marino
Photo by Chris Joseph

2. Dan Marino. Duh. I mean, seriously. Could this list start with any other two men? You may argue Wade and Marino should flip-flop here, but no third man even comes close. Marino gave Miamians (under age 50) the greatest sports experiences of their lives until Wade arrived. He was the gold standard.

Marino would throw for roughly a gazillion touchdowns in today's NFL where quarterbacks are treated with kid gloves. All his records that have been broken since he retired — especially his long-standing record of 48 touchdowns in a season — should have an asterisk by them since guys are now playing a totally different game.

The huge blemish on Marino's résumé is he never won the big game. Every time the Dolphins got near it, the quarterback and his team fell short. Whether it be the 1984 Super Bowl or (seemingly) 50 playoff losses to the Buffalo Bills, Marino never lifted his team above it all.

Was it all his fault? Not. Even. Close. Don Shula and the Dolphins front office blew it. They never surrounded Marino with the right talent, especially on defense. But to be number one, you have to win a title. Marino never did.

The Five Greatest Athletes in Miami Sports History (4)
Photo by George Martinez

3. LeBron James. Yeah, we said it. Some of you may not like it, but it just so happens that perhaps the greatest NBA player of all time won two championships here and led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals.

Sure, there was drama before and after LeBron's stay. But he ruled the entire sport from 2010 to 2014, and his decision to sign with the Heat not only changed the NBA forever but caused ripple effects that transformed the sport — including Kevin Durant's move to Golden State.

LeBron's jersey will hang in the rafters next to Dwyane Wade's and Chris Bosh's one day. And it should. No player — outside of Dwyane Wade — has brought more victories and memorable sports moments to Miami than LeBron James, like it or not.

4. Larry Csonka. Larry Csonka wrecked shit. If a running back like the majestically mustachioed Csonka led the Miami Dolphins to an undefeated title today, all four of the town's professional sports franchises would retire his jersey.

Csonka ran through, over, and around people on his way to rushing for a career-best 1,117 yards in 1972. He then took his team to another title in 1973. The game has changed a lot since then — and a lot of what Csonka did wouldn't stand up today — but he absolutely dominated his era.

For years — at least until Marino came on the scene — Csonka was the greatest athlete in Miami. To this day, few have brought more joy and successes than he did.

Jason Taylor
Jason Taylor

5. Jason Taylor. When you're as good as Jason Taylor was for the Miami Dolphins for 13 seasons, having a Super Bowl ring on your résumé doesn't mean as much. The defensive end is a legend, and if the Dolphins front office, coaching staff, and ownership were anything but a total embarrassment during his time in Miami, he'd have rings on his fingers and trophies in his house.

Taylor is a Hall of Famer with 139.5 sacks to his name. During the worst days to be a Dolphins fan, he brought hope and the occasional stress-relieving sack of Tom Brady. If the Miami Heat were a football team, Jason Taylor would have been a perfect fit. He brought his own culture to the table, coaching changes or teammates he damned. He's truly one of the all-time greats. 

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