As Dolphins fans count down the hours until Tua Tagovailoa makes his first NFL start against the Los Angeles Rams, his presence on the main stage raises the question: Where does Tua rank in the hierarchy of Miami sports stars? Where does a rookie who plays the most important position in sports stand in a sports town so desperate for a football star?
If you ask us, pretty high. Tua is already a household name, not only to Miami sports fans, but also to fans across America. Here's where we'd place Tua among his fellow Miami sports stars.
10. DeVante Parker. It didn't always look like Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker would be a star in Miami. His first handful of seasons did not exactly shout "star." But since Brian Flores became head coach in 2019, Parker has taken his game to another level.
In 2019, Parker broke out. In his fifth season — one that might have been his last with the team had he not managed to prove himself on the field — he caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. His great play led to a new two-year deal with the team, and his solid play has carried over to this season thus far.
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick. It might not say much for the state of Miami sports that the Dolphins' backup quarterback makes the list of the city's Top 10 stars. But Fitzpatrick isn't just any backup quarterback, and he has only been the backup for about a week. Fitzpatrick is one of the city's most recognizable stars, and he has truly delivered during his short tenure as a Dolphin.
What the rest of Fitzy's time in Miami will look like remains to be seen, but as of today, he has earned himself recognition as one of Miami's best sports stars.
8. Goran Dragic. If this article were published in the Slovenian Times, Goran Dragic would occupy the top spot on the list. He's an international superstar. He has been one of the Heat's best players since arriving via trade from Phoenix in 2015. In this past month's NBA Finals, though, Dragic took his Miami stardom to the next level.
For much of the NBA bubble experience, Dragic was the Miami Heat's leading scorers. There's little doubt the Heat would not have pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to Game 6 of the NBA Finals without his prior play against the Pacers, Bucks, and Celtics. Injury shortened his time to shine, but his play over the past few months propelled him to legendary status in Miami.
7. Sixto Sanchez. If you don't already know who Sixto Sanchez is, you will soon enough. The dude has "star" written all over him, and it's only a matter of time until Sixto moves from seventh on this list to the top three.
After coming to Miami this past offseason in the J.T. Realmuto trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 22-year-old is only getting started. In his first season with the Miami Marlins, Sixto finished 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 39 innings. Touching 100 mph is routine for Sixto. His changeups routinely clock in at 90 mph, a number many pitchers can't hit with a fastball when throwing their hardest. He is, in a word, electric.
If fans are allowed in at games next season, his starts will draw attendance numbers no Marlins player has drawn since José Fernández toed the hill.
6. D'Eriq King. Sure, Miami isn't your traditional college town, but college football here is still a bigger deal than some of our professional sports. Coming into a crucial sophomore season under Manny Diaz, the Canes needed stability at the quarterback spot. They found it in King, who transferred to the University of Miami from the University of Houston.
The Canes are 5-1 and a Top 10 team. Any Hurricanes quarterback who has the team in the discussion for a playoff berth instantly shoots toward the upper echelon of our list.
5. Tyler Herro. Miami Heat shooting guard Tyler Herro still can't buy a beer. He's 20 years old with an NBA Finals entry on his Wikipedia page, but he can't walk into a 7-Eleven to buy a White Claw. After a rookie season that went light-years above and beyond expectations, we're pretty sure just about all of Miami would buy one for him, though.
Herro is already a borderline household sports name, let alone an NBA name. He's appealing to the younger generation of Instagram-obsessed Heat fans all the way to the older generation that just respects the hell out of his game.
After this past season, there are only a handful of Miami sports stars who shine brighter than he does.
4. Udonis Haslem. There's a good chance Miami sports fans will find out in the next few weeks that Miami Heat old-timer Udonis Haslem has decided to retire. This is a ranking system that doesn't include coaches, presidents, or retired players, so as of now, Haslem is safe on our list based purely on his legacy.
If a group of Miami sports stars walk down Biscayne Boulevard, who'll be recognized the quickest? Haslem is toward the top of that list, if only because his face has been broadcast into our living rooms for the past 15 years. Haslem, who's often referred to as the unofficial mayor of Miami, may one day actually be the mayor of Miami. He's that well-respected in the 305.
Until Haslem hangs up his sneakers, he's a sports star — no matter if he sees the court or not. Those are the rules. You can be the one to tell him otherwise.
3. Bam Adebayo. It's likely that Heat center Bam Adebayo will battle for the top spot on our list for years to come. There's little doubt that if he continues on his career trajectory, he's headed to a Hall of Fame career.
After just three seasons in Miami, Bam is an All Star with an NBA Finals appearance on his resume. He's a household name in the NFL and hit "even your grandma knows his name" status in Miami. The only thing holding Bam back from being a top ten NBA player is more time on the floor.
Miamians should be watching Bam skyrocket in the ranks of NBA stars for years to come, but he's already near the top of their city's list.
2. Tua Tagovailoa. When you play the most important position in sports for the city's first-loved sports franchise, well, you instantly threaten the top of this list. Because the Dolphins once had a legendary Hall of Famer show Miami how fun winning could be for over a decade, Tua Tagovailoa comes with ready-to-eat hype. He's already a household name across the nation, thanks to all the college football fans who saw him win a national title at Alabama.
Beginning this Sunday, Miami Dolphins fans get to sit down in front of their TVs and see what all the fuss is about. If all goes well, Tua will bring back a championship to a city that has been desperately yearning for a good football team for decades now.
All that promise and all that hype, coupled with national name recognition, make Tua a bonafide Miami sports star before he ever takes a snap as a starter. Dolphins fans know it's possible it all comes crashing down faster than it was built up, though.
1. Jimmy Butler. After an NBA Finals performance that featured two triple-doubles with over 35 points, the Heat's Jimmy Butler is undeniably the greatest Miami sports star of 2020. He's a Miami sports rock. He's the foundation of the entire sports calendar in Miami right now.
Just a year ago, Jimmy Butler played for arguably the Heat's biggest rival, the Philadelphia 76ers. He became a free agent and decided he wanted a taste of all that Miami Heat culture his buddy Dwyane Wade told him he needed in his life. After a trying season that put the Miami Heat back on the championship contender map, it's safe to say that Wade wasn't lying about the team and about Butler being a perfect fit.
Jimmy Butler has a certain window to be Miami's best sports star. His time is now, while Bam and Tua are on the come-up. But as of this moment, Butler is at the top of the Miami sports stage.