Four years ago, compiling a list of the 25 best players in Miami Heat history meant adding on a few that probably would not have been known of outside of Miami. How times have changed. In four years, the Heat have tacked on All-Star after All-Star, Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer and have made their all-time roster one of the best in the history of the game. Outside of Los Angeles and Boston, they have compiled names that could possibly rival that of any franchise that has existed since the earliest days of the NBA.
The Miami Heat have only been around for 25 years. They have been around as long as the Charlotte Hornets and are a year older than the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic, yet draw names as if they had a history as appealing as some of the league’s better-known franchises.
It’s a perfect storm of factors that explain why Miami has become a landing ground for high-profile names. For one, it’s Miami. Veterans are looking to retire and who doesn’t want to retire in warm weather? Secondly, Pat Riley, of Lakers’ fame, has had an influence in all team matters since 1995. They’ve been winning ever since.
Naturally, the hardware that Riley flashed in the face of LeBron, Dwyane and Chris played a role. Those rings of his have brought some of the biggest names in basketball and it’s allowed this relatively young franchise to have some of the league’s top players over the past two decades.
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25. DAN MAJERLE
Thunder Dan was at the tail end of his career when he played in Miami, finishing up his final season in South Beach at just 5.0 points per game. During his prime, the sharpshooter was a solid all-around player who could defend some of the league’s best swingmen (outside of Michael Jordan, but then again, who can?) and also stroke the triple. Under Pat Riley in Miami, he came to represent much of what those teams were about: gritty defense and unwavering toughness.
24. CARON BUTLER
The 6-7 small forward was with Miami for only two seasons from 2002 to 2004 before being traded to the Lakers in the infamous Shaquille O’Neal deal, but he made his mark almost immediately. Butler scored 15.4 points per game as a rookie while starting every game he played in. He had a difficult second season finding his way next to Wade, but he still played his part during the postseason.
Miami trusted the young guy enough to play him nearly 40 minutes a game during the playoffs, and Tough Juice responded, throwing up 23 points and nine boards in a closeout first-round win over the Hornets and then going for 21 points and 10 boards against Indiana in the team’s final win of the second round.
23. LAMAR ODOM
Odom played just one year with the Heat, but it was arguably the best season of his career. Leading one of the youngest teams in franchise history, the 6-10 point forward was good for 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, playing just about every position on the court and looking every bit like an All-Star. He was the team’s best player for most of the regular season, and then selflessly moved aside once Wade ascended to the throne during the team’s playoff run.
During the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Odom scored in double-figures in all but one game and was a key component on one of Miami’s most exciting playoff runs in franchise history.
22. BRIAN GRANT
One of the best role players in team history (he was basically the original Udonis Haslem), Grant played four years in Miami and made the playoffs twice. His stats were never eye-opening — the power forward’s best season was in 2001 when he went for 15.2 points and 8.8 boards a game — but like Haslem, he was a selfless player always willing to do the dirty work.
He’d later be traded to the Lakers as part of the package that acquired Shaq.
21. JASON WILLIAMS
Before coming to Miami, White Chocolate was still known as a reckless point guard who was a wildly erratic shooter. Well, in his first season in Miami, Williams manned the lead guard spot all year long and averaged 12.3 points per game with solid percentages. The team not only won a championship with Williams, but J-Dub had a tremendous impact in the postseason.
He opened the playoffs against Chicago by scoring at least 17 in the team’s first three games, and then saved his best performance for the biggest moment. In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons, Williams sent Miami to the Finals by making his first 10 shots en route to 21 points.