The sports scene in South Florida is in flux. With the departure of Dwyane Wade from the Miami Heat, sports fans are facing an identity crisis. When people in Omaha, Nebraska, think about Miami sports, who do they think of now? Since 1984, the answer to that question has been pretty easy. It was Dan Marino until 2003, and then Dwyane Wade began to steal the show.
Today the answer is anyone's guess. So we decided to put ourselves in the shoes of the outsiders and try to figure out which South Florida athlete might be most recognizable to non-Floridians. Here are our best guesses.
1. Giancarlo Stanton
South Floridians might not be the biggest Major League Baseball fans, but the rest of the country surely recognizes what we do have in Marlins Park. Giancarlo Stanton is one of the finest players in baseball. Winning a Home Run Derby — especially with 61 thunderous bombs — goes a long way in making a player Iowa-famous, but Stanton wasn't exactly flying under the radar since signing for $325 million a few years ago.
The only thing holding Stanton back from being Miami's most recognizable athlete is the fact that he has never played in a postseason game.
2. Ryan Tannehill
Almost by default, the quarterback of an NFL team is the best-known athlete in the city, but that hasn't been the case since Ryan Tannehill join the Dolphins five years ago. The Fins have been largely overshadowed by the Miami Heat during his career, and if people did see him on SportsCenter, it was usually for the wrong reasons.
Outside of Florida, Tannehill is best known as a guy you pick as your second quarterback in a 16-team fantasy league. That's a joke, but fantasy football is such a juggernaut that that alone might make him the most recognizable sports name in Miami.
3. Jarvis Landry
We know Jarvis Landry here in South Florida, but does the rest of the nation instantly associate him with Miami? It might be too early to tell. What we do know is Landry has one of the top-selling jerseys in the NFL, and not all of those shoppers live in Miami. Landry broke the record for most receptions by a receiver in his first two years in the league, but his catches aren't exactly Randy Moss-esque.
Can a slot receiver be a household name? See fantasy football again. Yes, it can. Landry's flair and personality off the field might give him the sort of edge that eventually puts him at the front of South Florida's most recognizable athletes, but as of today, he has a ways to go before he can make that claim.
4. Hassan Whiteside
Who would have thought 12 months ago that anyone would seriously ask if Hassan Whiteside — acquired through a throwaway transaction the Miami Heat made in a lost season in 2015 — could become the face of South Florida sports? Whiteside has shot to the top of the Heat's roster when it comes to its most important player, but is he the most recognizable? That person might still be Chris Bosh even though he has hardly touched a ball while he battles blood clots.
Whiteside might be the answer to this question 12 months from now, but it's hard to imagine his name being the first one out of the mouth of a sports fan living in Idaho today.
5. Jose Fernandez
Sadly, Jose Fernandez is likely to be better known after he leaves Miami. It's almost guaranteed he'll get more than $300 million from a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Yankees when he becomes available in free agency, and you can be sure when that time comes, he won't be a Marlin. As for now, Fernandez is about as well known throughout America as an MLB pitcher can be. But how well is that? The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is at the top of the game, but he doesn't exactly have Tom Brady-like name recognition.
Fernandez, like Stanton, is hurt by the Marlins' lack of success, but he's also hurt because four out of every five games, he's eating sunflower seeds and sipping Gatorade in the dugout, far away from the cameras. It's unlikely Fernandez is the first name that comes to mind when someone thinks of Miami sports, but that has more to do with the position he plays and where he plays it.
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