The Top Five Miami Heat Rivalries
In the Heat's 20+ years of existence, they have created quite a few juicy rivalries. They have had brawls, heartbreaks, and nasty moments over the years against some of their foes. While the Heat have certainly had some great games against some great teams, nothing compares to these five heated rivalries. I am going to list the Heat's top 5 rivals, in my opinion, over the past 20 years.
5. Dallas Mavericks
This rivalry was short lived, but it began on the biggest stage of them all: The 2006 NBA Finals. Both the Heat and the Mavs made their respective franchises' first Finals appearances in 2006. Dallas was heavily favored to win and that assumption looked even more true when they took a 2-0 lead in the series.
But, the Heat made a miraculous comeback and won four straight games to win the championship. In those final four games, a lot of tension built up between the two teams.
Jerry Stackhouse got suspended after a flagrant foul on Shaquille O'Neal, which commenced the tension. Every game went down to the final minutes of the game (highlighted by game five going into overtime), with the exception of two of them. In the end, the Heat escaped with the Title in Game 6 in another very close game.
The following year, Dirk Nowitizki said in an interview that the refs gave Dwyane Wade every call in the Finals and it was the Mavs mistakes, not the Heat's talent and performance, that lost them the title.
Wade responded harshly, "''At the end of the day, you're remembered for what you did at the end. ... Dirk says they gave us the championship last year, but he's the reason they lost the championship, because he wasn't the leader that he's supposed to be in the closing moments. That's because of great defense by us, but also he wasn't assertive enough as a leader's supposed to be.''
Everything cooled down after that, but the Heat-Mavs rivalry is something to be remembered.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
The Heat's rivalry started for one reason and one reason only: The Shaq-Kobe, media driven, beef. After the Lakers disappointing loss to the PIstons in the Finals, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. Once that happened, a war started between the superstars and the Heat couldn't help being involved.
For two straight years, the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers played in front of a National audience on Christmas Day. During Shaq's days with the Heat, he always made headlines with his knocks on Kobe.
Also, no one can forget when the 17-year old Andrew Bynum did a spin move that almost broke Shaq's ankles, in which a fight almost broke out between the two.
This rivalry doesn't exist anymore, but everyone likes to watch Wade vs. Bryant every time they face off.
3. Chicago Bulls
The Heat-Bulls rivalry is well documented. The two teams have squared off in the postseason five times, with Miami only winning one of those series ('06). This rivalry has two eras. First, there was the MJ era, in which Chicago dominated Miami every time they played. That Bulls-Heat rivalry era came to an end after Chicago beat Miami 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1997.
The second Bulls-Heat rivalry is the Baby Bulls era, which is where the fun begins. This rivalry started in 2006, when Andres Nocioni got called for a flagrant foul for giving Wade a hard push that knocked him down to the floor. In defense, Udonis Haslem ended up throwing his mouth piece at referee Joey Crawford and got ejected and later suspended for a game.
The rivalry intensified when James Posey was ejected from game three of the divisional playoffs in 2006 for shoulder bumping Kirk Hinrich to the floor. He was suspended for one game.
Other incidents occurred in 2006 when Pat Riley accused Hinrich of being a dirty player for his defense on Wade. Lastly, Posey was involved in another incident when he broke Tyrus Thomas' nose in a regular season game after a hard foul.
This rivalry has been very intriguing over the past three years, especially at playoff time. While it has certainly cooled off recently, the Heat are 2-0 against the Bulls this year and I'm sure Chicago will be looking for revenge next year. Not to mention, the Heat-Bulls rivalry has its own Wikipedia page.
2. Detroit Pistons
There is not one team that I hate more than the Detroit Pistons. The emptiness, anger, and devastation that this team caused me at some points was ridiculous. In my whole life as a sports fan, the '05 Pistons have caused me the most resentment over any other team in sports.
No one can forget the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals between Detroit and Miami. It was an epic series that went down to seven games. Unfortunately, it ended horribly for the Heat, as they lost on their homecourt in game seven and missed a chance at their first NBA Finals. The Heat were No. 1 and the Pistons were No. 2. The teams battled through a tough series that came down to a decisive game seven. In the final minutes of the game, Detroit pulled away, and it was capped off with a Rasheed Wallace layup off of an offensive rebound.
That was probably the Heat's lowest moment in franchise history in my eyes. They were heartbroken and very bitter towards the Pistons. The following year, the two teams had playoff-atmosphere regular season games that led up to a rematch in the '06 Eastern Conference Finals. This time, the Heat came out on top in six games and got their revenge on the Pistons.
While this rivalry still exists, it remains dormant. But, no one will forget those back-to-back epic Eastern Conference Championship battles.
1. New York Knicks
No surprise here, but I dub the New York Knicks as the Heat's most fierce and hated rival of all time.
The above picture explains it all for this rivalry. Some consider the Heat-Knicks rivalry in the late 90's to be one of the best sports rivalries of all times. These two franchise truly hated each other and you could see it every time they faced off.
For four straight years (1997-2000) the Heat and the Knicks met in the postseason, and for four straight years, the series was played to its final game. Also for four straight years, it was a drama filled series. It was always heated, always aggressive, and was marked by physical play.
It all started in 1997 with the PJ Brown-Charlie Ward brawl in the East Semis, which would be the only year the Heat took down New York.
The 1998 playoffs is what will be remembered by Heat fans, New York fans, and basketball fans everywhere. It was the infamous Alonzo Mourning-Larry Johnson fight that started a full scale melee. It was highlighted by then Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy grasping Mourning's feet in an attempt to break the two players up.
The following year saw probably the second most heartbreaking shot in Heat history, when Allan Houston hit a running one handed shot that bounced in the basket with less than a second remaining, and gave the Knicks the prestigious honor of being just the second No. 8 seeded team in NBA history to knock off a No. 1 seeded team.
The feud saw its final chapter when New York once again broke Miami's in the East Semis. With the Heat down 83-82, Clarence Weatherspoon missed a last second jumper that would have given then the win, and the Heat were downed on their homecourt in game seven again.
The Heat-Knicks rivalry will always be one of the most well-document rivalries in sports. From massive brawls to last second heartbreaking shots, this rivalry saw it all. With the Knicks recent struggles, the rivalry is pretty much just a memory. But, it will always be remembered as a huge part of Heat history and will be looked back upon as one of the fiercest, hate-driven, and defensive minded matchups of all time.