Simply stated, if you are an authentic Miami Heat fan that bleeds Black and Red, has been with the team through thick and thin and actually liked the team before July 8, 2010 (the date Miami signed the Big Three), then the answer to this article's question is unequivocally Dwyane Wade.
In just a little over two years in South Beach, James has already put his mark in the Heat's record books, breaking multiple franchise records and establishing himself as one of the most influential players in team history.
With all that James has accomplished recently and for all the relevance he has brought to Miami, Heat fans have grown quite fond of the King.
But does James' increased popularity surpass Heat fans' love affair with Wade?
The Case for LeBron James
LeBron James has brought excitement, relevance and championship glory back to the city of Miami.
He was the catalyst in the Heat's championship run last season and proved both his greatness and worth to the Heat fanbase with his prolific playoff performance.
LeBron's 40-point, 18-rebound, nine-assist effort in a critical Game 4 second-round playoff victory against the Indiana Pacers last season, as well as his 45-point, 15-rebound performance in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics to avoid elimination, will go down as two of the most epic displays in Heat history.
Then, James was able to finally shake his playoff ghosts from the past with a dynamic Finals performance and deliver the Heat a trophy on Miami's home floor in front of thousands of elated fans. The string of amazing games, culminating with a Finals MVP and championship celebration at American Airlines Arena, certainly gave Heat fans a newfound love for James.
On top of that, James became the first player in franchise history to win the regular-season MVP award.
It's hard for Heat fans not to love James, especially considering he's already cracked the franchise's all-time top 10 in points, field goals, field-goal percentage, free throws and assists.
James has electrified the city of Miami with his rim-rattling dunks, nightly All-Star performances and all-around unbelievable play.
Ultimately, he has established trust with the Heat faithful by consistently bringing his A-game, being the ultimate team player and having a "whatever it takes to win" mentality.
As much as the Heat players might dislike the attention that surrounds their locker room, Heat fans undoubtedly love what James has brought the Heat—in terms of being the focus of the media, being the marquee matchup on everyone's schedule and garnering national television relevance.
The prominence the Heat currently have is because of James celebrity and status as the NBA's best player, ultimately making Heat fans very attached to him.
Why Heat Fans Still Love Dwyane Wade More
It isn't necessary to "make a case" for Dwyane Wade.
If you don't love Wade more than LeBron James or don't consider Wade the franchise's No. 1, you are likely not a lifelong, diehard Miami Heat fan.
Sure, you might have loved LeBron when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and respected his talents long before you knew he was taking his talents to South Beach.
However, there is nothing from James' tenure that can compare to the impact that Wade's has made on the Heat organization.
After the Alonzo Mourning-Tim Hardaway era ended in disappointment, it was Dwyane Wade that brought hope, wonder and allure back to the franchise.
In a matter of three years, Wade turned into a bona fide superstar and blossomed into one of the Heat's most dynamic superstars ever.
Wade opened up a new window in Heat history and ultimately delivered (along with Shaquille O'Neal) Miami the biggest accomplishment in its 25-year existence: the elusive first championship.
Wade was the chip that made the coming together of the Big Three possible. He was the one that initially made the Heat a championship-winning organization.
D-Wade represents so many high moments and milestones in franchise history that can't be simply overlooked by all the greatness that LeBron has brought in his two-plus years in Miami.
Not to mention, there is the statistical facts that contribute to Wade's status as the Heat's most loved player.
He's the franchise's all-time leader in career points, field goals, free throws, minutes played, games, assists, steals and win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.
Wade has delivered some of the most exciting athletic plays, some of the most exciting moments and overall best games in team history.
From his unreal 2006 Finals performance when he averaged 34.7 points per game, to his spectacular 2009 season when he was the scoring champion, Wade has had a plethora of unforgettable moments in a Heat uniform.
How about his 18 straight points in a regular-season victory over the rival Detroit Pistons in 2006, or the fact that he's led the Heat to the playoffs every single season of his career with the exception of an injury-riddled 2007 campaign?
In addition to his on-court achievements, Wade has become so beloved by Heat fans everywhere because of his humble personality.
Wade cares about the fans, he puts the team first and he's an excellent role model; the guy even won the Father of the Year Award. He always seems to be levelheaded and is a great person to follow.
In addition, he's made sacrifices to make sure the Heat were a championship-contending team by taking less money in 2010 to ensure the Big Three could become a reality. Overall, he's got a lot of admirable aspects off the court.
For a decade, Wade has accurately portrayed what Miami Heat basketball represents. He has given the Heat fanbase a dictionary full of beautiful memories. Quite simply, he has never disappointed. He's been clutch when he's needed to be, he's been a consummate leader, he's been a second option when asked to and he's never let the Heat faithful down.
The fact is that No. 3 is what comes to mind when you think Miami Heat basketball, and he is No. 1 in Heat fan's hearts if you're a true follower of the team.
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