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.
20. KEITH ASKINS
There is no player in Miami Heat history that has had a longer tenure with the franchise than Keith Askins. Following nine seasons as a reserve and seldom starter for the Heat, where he served as the small forward, Askins made a second career out of basketball and became an assistant coach for Miami. He has been an assistant coach for 13 years, working for Pat Riley, Stan Van Gundy, Ron Rothstein and current coach Erik Spoelstra.
19. P.J. BROWN
A wall of a power forward that helped form one of the league’s strongest defensive interiors alongside Alonzo Mourning, P.J. Brown earned two of his three All-Defensive Second Team nominations as a member of the Miami Heat.
Brown played with the Heat in their earliest glory days of the second half of the 1990s when the team was a few Knick bounces away from seriously contending for titles.
He and Mourning would keep defenders away from the rim and gobble up rebounds. Brown averaged as much as 8.6 per with the Heat, establishing the Heat as one of the league’s toughest teams to score on.
On top of his rebounding and defensive prowesses, Brown also averaged a career-high 11.4 points in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
18. MIKE MILLER
In a way, Mike Miller was a disappointment for the Heat. He was the fourth-highest earner of the team, yet played in half the team’s regular season games in his three years with the club and made sporadic appearances in terms of unleashing his deadliest weapon.
But you have to overlook it. Right? Because once you watch, and re-watch and re-watch, Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals, it makes it seem like the $30 million investment in Miller — that eventually resulted in his amnesty this summer — was absolutely worth it.
Miller’s seven three-pointers in that blowout clincher is a Heat record for threes in a playoff game. Each three was as improbable and enjoyable as the last. He hadn’t made a three-pointer before that game since knocking down one in a Game 5 loss to Boston in the previous series.
Yet there he was in the series-clincher of the NBA Finals, converting on seven of his eight three-point attempts and finishing with 23 points off the bench. He made us forget LeBron had a triple-double in the same game.
17. MARIO CHALMERS
One game you’re begging for him to be traded after he dribbles the ball off his foot, the next you’re begging him to shoot more after making his fifth three-pointer. This is the Mario Chalmers complex, and it’s stricken not just the Heat fanbase but his teammates as well. It’s no rare sight to see the Heat veterans — even Ray Allen got in on it this past season — chew out Chalmers for a missed assignment or simply because they’re frustrated.
Nevertheless, Chalmers is looked at as the little brother of this team. He’s been the Heat’s starting point guard for all but one season in his five-year career and has been the starter on the past two championship teams.
As frustrating as he can be, he has ice-cold veins. It’s evidenced in the 25 points he dropped in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Thunder, as well as the unappreciated and forgotten 20 points (4-of-5 from three) he dropped in Miami’s unbelievable Game 6 win over San Antonio.
Even his record-setting game gets forgotten. In a blowout win over the Sacramento Kings this past season, Chalmers tied the all-time Heat record for threes in a game after nailing 10 of his 13 attempts. It’s games like this that make you love and hate the 27-year-old for having so much potential, yet being so inconsistent.
16. SHERMAN DOUGLAS
‘The Little General’ as he was called because of his diminutive stature, Sherman Douglas was the Miami Heat’s first point guard. He was a second-round pick of the Heat in 1988 and immediately impressed with averages of 14 points and a shade under eight assists per in his rookie season, earning him All-Rookie First Team honors.
Douglas continued to improve as he averaged career-highs in points (18.5 on 50 percent) and assists (8.5) in his sophomore season.
Money would get in the way of a longer relationship, however, and the Heat would trade Douglas to the Boston Celtics after playing five games in his third season. The individual success he had with the Heat would never be matched in his time elsewhere.
15. EDDIE JONES
A part of the Heat teams that eventually led to the Heat’s high position in the 2003 Draft, Eddie Jones manned the fort in terms of keeping the franchise subpar enough to get consecutive great picks in 2002 and 2003.
So a thanks is in order, Heat fans.
Jones joined the Heat in 2000 when everything began to fall apart. With Alonzo Mourning out until further notice and Tim Hardaway nearing the end of his career, it was up to Jones to somehow continue the streak of Miami contending for titles. He wasn’t capable of it, but he did put up respectable numbers, such as the 19 points he averaged and the 41 percent he shot from deep on five attempts per game in 2003, and was a member of that extremely fun Heat team from the 2003-04 campaign.
Three-point shooting was Jones’ specialty with the Heat. He never shot less than 37 percent from three, despite taking as much as six threes per game. Jones was third in the league in three-pointers made in ’04. He was also a starter on the 2004-05 team that was a Wade injury away from going to the Finals.
14. SHANE BATTIER
You had to crack a smile for Shane Battier once you saw those threes finally start dropping — unless you were going for the other team — in Game 7 against the Spurs. It was needed after the Heat threw Battier in the lion’s den, forcing him to bang inside with the likes of David West and Carlos Boozer.
Battier is just one of many Heat players sacrificing. He sacrificed money when signing with the Heat and he’s been sacrificing his true position of small forward to play defense at power forward in order to give the Heat a defensive boost against the bruising fours of the East. Shane’s taken it all in stride with no complaints.
He’s had an interesting career with the Heat. He started off with a disappointing regular season where he shot a career-low 34 percent from three, only to redeem himself by shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc in the Heat’s NBA Finals win against OKC.
The percentages switched this past year, with Battier thriving in the regular season, shooting 43 percent from three, and struggling in the postseason. The frustration of missing easy ones and defending out-of-position culminated in one spectacular showing that featured Battier hitting his first five threes in Game 7.
13. JAMAL MASHBURN
Forming a formidable frontcourt that also featured P.J. Brown and Alonzo Mourning, Jamal Mashburn didn’t allow injuries to play too heavy of a role in his short time with the Heat.
Mashburn spent three-and-a-half injury-hampered seasons with Miami, but was still able to establish himself as a high-volume scorer that could score from anywhere on the floor. On top of being able to get to the rim and finish, Mashburn was a solid shooter from deep, shooting as high as 41 percent on 278 attempts in 2000.
12. GRANT LONG
A member of the early Heat teams, Grant Long was Miami’s Udonis Haslem of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The second-rounder that played power forward was a strong defender at his position and an able rebounder, despite only being 6-8, averaging as much as eight boards in the 1991-92 campaign.
He was so aggressive as a defender that Long still holds the Heat record for fouls in a season with 337, coming in his rookie year. It translates out to a little more than four fouls per contest.
Long spent the first six seasons of his career with the Heat, posting a career-high 15 points per in 1992, before being sent to the Atlanta Hawks in a trade that brought in Kevin Willis.
11. STEVE SMITH
A top five pick of Miami in the 1991 Draft, Steve Smith spent the first three seasons of his career honing his game with the Heat before moving on and becoming an All-Star with Atlanta. Before leaving, however, Smith made a name for himself as a two-guard with elite post moves and the ability to facilitate as a scorer and passer. On top of averaging over 16 points in his final two seasons with the Heat, Smith also averaged at least five assists and four rebounds.
He’s one of five Heat players to be named to the All-Rookie First Team, achieved after averaging 12 points, five assists and three rebounds.
10. RONY SEIKALY
Before there was LeBron James. Before there was Dwyane Wade. Before there was Alonzo Mourning or Tim Hardaway or even Glen Rice, there was Rony Seikaly, and he was the first name Heat fans remembered.
Taken ninth overall in the 1988 Draft, Seikaly’s post skills, which would earn him the moniker of “Spin Doctor,” and rebounding ability enticed the Heat into making him the first cornerstone of the franchise.
It took only two years for the 6-11, Lebanese-born center to earn an award, taking home the league’s Most Improved Player in 1989 after averaging a double-double.
Seikaly averaged a double-double, with his career-high being 17 points and 11 rebounds per in 1993, in five of the six seasons he played with the Heat. His rookie year was the only exception. He still holds the Heat record for rebounds in a game with 34, rebounds in a season and rebounds per (11.8). Impressive when you consider the other centers and big men that have played for this Heat franchise.
9. RAY ALLEN
It doesn’t matter that he’s been in Miami for only a season. When you make a shot as significant as the one he made in Game 6, you’re immediately thrust into the archives of franchise lore. Ray Allen deserves this top ten ranking because without him, the Heat could very well have been the disappointed team at the end of the 2013 Finals. If Miami didn’t happen to possess the single greatest three-point shooter in the history of basketball, summer on South Beach would have been a lot hotter and a lot longer.
You can only imagine how much more intensified the “Where’s LeBron going?” debates would be had the season ended with him missing the game-tying three. You hear it already and that’s after Miami’s gone back-to-back.
Those thoughts don’t exist because of Ray Allen.
Playing off the bench for the first in his illustrious career, Allen raised no complaints and simply did what he was put on this earth to do: make long-range shots. He averaged 11 points and shot 42 percent from three, while also providing the Heat with some pre-Finals theatrics in the form of game-winners against the likes of Cleveland, Denver and San Antonio in the regular season.
8. UDONIS HASLEM
Despite the rough going Udonis Haslem has had since tearing a ligament in his foot in 2010, he has never allowed obstacles or ailments quell his thirst of providing for his team and giving an effort that’s unmatched by anyone else on the court.
Haslem’s work ethic stems from being a player who wasn’t given a chance at first. He went undrafted out of the University of Florida and spent some time playing overseas in France before answering the call to try out for an upstart Heat team in the summer of 2003.
Since sauntering his way back to the States, Haslem has become a staple of Miami sports and the community in general. The Miami-born Haslem has spent his entire career with the Heat and has treated the Heat with undying effort and a midrange jumper that was once recognized as one of the league’s most consistent.
To this day, as seen in the ECF against the Indiana Pacers, that midrange jumper is still very much a part of his game.
Haslem was a starter on the ’06 championship team, holding Dirk Nowitzki to sub-40 percent from the field, and recently started 59 games on the Heat team that won the ’13 title. He is the Heat all-time leader in rebounds and games played.
7. GLEN RICE
The first star to step onto the scene with the Heat, Glen Rice was the first player to lead the fresh new franchise to a postseason appearance.
Rice joined the Heat as a No. 4 pick in the 1989 Draft and quickly made his presence felt with 14 points per and a nod to the All-Rookie Second Team. He would make a huge jump after his rookie season, averaging as much as 22 points and shooting 39 percent from three in only his third season.
He finished second in the league in three-pointers made that season after knocking down 155. He had made only 88 in his first two seasons in the league combined. He’d match that 22 ppg total again in his final season with the Heat in 1995, before he’d become a part of the monumental trade that brought in a disgruntled Alonzo Mourning from the Charlotte Hornets.
Rice would make a bigger name for himself with the Hornets, but it was with the Heat where he got his start and enabled him to become the three-time All-Star and All-Star Game MVP he earned with Charlotte.
On a team that has featured the likes of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, Rice still holds the record for points in a game with 56. Wade challenged it in 2009, but came up a point short.
6. CHRIS BOSH
Chris Bosh’s adjustments and sacrifices have not fallen on blind eyes or deaf ears to the Miami community.
While critics clamor for the Bosh that averaged 24 and 10, those with enough sense will realize that he can’t average such numbers when there are three ballhandlers, two of which are high-volume scorers, in the starting lineup.
Instead, the Heat has to live with the starting center on the past two championship teams and arguably the best shooting big man in the league after posting up career-highs in jump shooting percentages this past season. What a curse.
Even if it looks wane for Bosh, his style of offense is perfect for a Heat team that thrives off its ballhandlers getting into the paint and kicking out to jump shooters. He opens up the floor and is a knock-down midrange shooter on par with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki. Plus, who doesn’t love those roars he bellows after big plays? He’s been doing them in Miami since the first day he donned a Heat uniform.
5. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
The falling out was painful, as were the years following the ’06 title, but one can’t deny how imperative a role Shaquille O’Neal played for the Heat from 2004 to 2006.
Before Shaq went on a personal crusade against the Heat organization, including Pat Riley and the medical staff and Chris Quinn for some reason, he was one of Miami’s most beloved sports figures. On the day of his intro to the team, he rolled up in a semi-truck and sprayed awaiting fans with a super soaker.
This was going to be fun. At least until things stopped being easy and Dwyane Wade started getting hurt.
Before then, however, O’Neal was almost as dominant as he was in his days with the Los Angeles Lakers, missing out on a second MVP by mere percentage points in 2005. He’d average at least 20 points for the last time in his career the next season before becoming Wade’s sidekick and letting him take the reins en route to a championship.
Shaq only averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Finals, but his influence in the paint aided Wade in getting freed up for more manageable looks. Even when the ball wasn’t in his hands, O’Neal’s commanding presence continued to play a pivotal role for the shooting guard whose confidence skyrocketed as a result.
Unfortunately for O’Neal, his exit out of Miami will make the organization think twice of retiring the big No. 32 he adorned for a roller coaster three-and-a-half seasons.
4. TIM HARDAWAY
An innovator of a quick change-in-direction that is now known today as the killer crossover, Tim Hardaway was a fixture of Miami Heat highlight reels throughout the second half of the 1990s. Forming a pairing with Alonzo Mourning, Hardaway’s facilitation, combined with his uncanny ability to elude initial defenders, led the Heat to their best seasons in franchise history at the time, including a then franchise-record 61 wins in their first season together.
Hardaway was nearly unstoppable when he got it going. He could get to the rim with ease, shoot the rock from all areas of the court and was on par with the league’s top floor generals, even earning a nod in MVP voting, finishing fourth in his first full year with the Heat.
He was a two-time All-Star with the Heat and earned his lone nod to the All-NBA First Team with them as well. As a result of his memorable play with the Heat, his No. 10 jersey was the second Heat uniform to be retired by the franchise, coming shortly after his inside-outside partner received a similar honor.
3. ALONZO MOURNING
The heart and soul of the 1990s, and 2006, Heat basketball, Alonzo Mourning was the first player to bring some notoriety to basketball in Miami. Before ‘Zo’ was traded to Miami, the Heat were a new franchise looking to make its mark. In the seven years prior to his signing, they made the playoffs twice. Following the signing, however, Miami would make six consecutive postseasons, making it as far as the conference finals, with Mourning leading the way on both ends.
Mourning’s defensive energy was unmatched. The bruising mammoth of a center won consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards with Miami, finished as high as second in MVP voting (1999) and was an All-NBA First Team nod the same year. Naturally, he made it onto a pair of All-Defensive First teams.
However, the heartache of postseason losses — namely to the New York Knicks — were crippling and his career took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with a kidney ailment that would end up keeping him out of the league for over a year.
After a brief comeback with New Jersey, Mourning made his return to Miami in 2005 and would enable the Heat to a championship in ’06 thanks to a memorable six-block effort in the Game 6 clincher over Dallas.
Mourning would retire in 2007 after a knee injury. He has since had his jersey appropriately retired by the Heat. Before he left, Mourning became the all-time Heat leader in blocks.
2. LeBRON JAMES
It’s alarming to think LeBron James has been with the Miami Heat for only three years. It seems like decades ago he was being crushed with the burden of leading role player-laden Cleveland Cavalier teams to second round and conference final exits.
Thankfully those days are in the past, and we now get to see just how dynamic and volatile of a player LeBron can be when he has help surrounding him. Now that he doesn’t have to expel energy doing absolutely everything on the floor, basketball purists get to witness a multidimensional monster that has become a smarter overall player, reflected in his overall game from a physical and mental standpoint.
Since falling hard to Earth after the Heat’s 2011 Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron has made it a purpose to improve every offseason in an attempt to eliminate any weakness that could possibly be exploited. As a result, his post-up game has become more refined and the percentages on his jumpers are the highest they’ve ever been.
LeBron is coming off his second consecutive league MVP, NBA championship and Finals MVP following a harrowing seven-game series win over a hungry San Antonio Spurs squad. His previous title win came over a young Oklahoma City Thunder team after the team needed only five games to dispel of.
His 2012-13 season is one for the ages. Besides setting career-highs in shooting-percentage (56 percent) and rebounds (eight per), James also finished with a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 31.6, which is the seventh-highest in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, as well as James himself in the 2008-09 season, had higher PERs.
I guess what I’m trying to covey is that he’s really good at this whole basketball thing, and the Heat should be jubilant they have him secured in the prime of his career for at least one more season.
1. DWYANE WADE
He was drafted by the Miami Heat. He’s been the Heat’s star since. He’s going to retire wearing a Heat jersey. He’ll see that jersey raised to the rafters as soon as the organization feels its time. Dwyane Wade is unequivocally the greatest player to suit up in a Miami Heat uniform. As aware as we all are of the exploits of LeBron James since teaming up with Wade, he lacks the history and legacy that the former Marquette star has created since joining the team as the No. 5 pick in the 2003 Draft.
Wade led the Heat to their first NBA championship in 2006 after a monumental effort where he averaged 35 points in a series that’s statistically rated as the greatest individual Finals performance ever. By the time he was 24 years old, Wade was already a Finals MVP and the face of an NBA franchise that made waves the previous offseason by signing Shaquille O’Neal.
Injuries would limit Wade following the Finals win but as his motto states, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” Dwyane responded to two injury-plagued seasons with a gold medal in the Olympics, where he led Team USA in scoring, then lead the NBA in scoring at 30 points per and making a significant case for league MVP.
Over the past few years, Wade has become the Heat’s all-time leader in points, assists, steals, field goals and free throws. He also holds the Heat record for points in a playoff game, secured in a 46-point showcase against the Boston Celtics in 2010.
Since leading consecutive underwhelming Heat teams to first-round exits, Wade has been a key catalyst of Heat teams that have been to the past three NBA Finals, winning two of them.
What do you think?
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