The Heat's 25-year history has been filled with highs—four finals appearances in the past eight years—as well as lows—three seasons of less than 20 wins—but, overall, the team that currently resides on beautiful Biscayne Boulevard has become one of the league's more formidable forces.
Guided by Pat Riley, who's, arguably, single-handedly responsible for turning the franchise around when he arrived in 1995, and owner Micky Arison, the Heat franchise has featured some of the best talent to ever play the game.
And while it was admittedly an excruciatingly tough task, I've attempted to assemble the top 25 players to ever suit up for the Miami Heat.
Steve Smith was one that got away for Miami.
After being drafted by the Heat and playing three seasons with the club, Smith was traded away to the Atlanta Hawks, where he would become a legend and an all-time great in the Hawks franchise.
Smith would return to Miami late in his career for a brief, 13-game stint with the Heat, but at that point, his prime was far behind him as he only averaged 1.8 points per game in that time.
In Smith's first three years with the Heat, he averaged 15.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.1 assist and one steal per game.
If Miami hadn't decided to deal Smith, there's no doubt he would have clearly gone onto be one of the franchise's greatest point guards.
He may only have one season as a member of the Miami Heat under his belt, but I felt obligated to put Ray Allen on this list simply because of his historic, series-saving shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals this past June.
Games are never truly decided by one shot or one moment, but there isn't any doubt Allen's clutch three in the final seconds served as CPR to Miami's championship aspirations.
It was one of, if not, the greatest shots in franchise history.
That alone was reason enough for me to include Allen in the Heat's top 25, but the fact that he currently stands as the greatest three-point shooter the game has ever seen was another factor I added to the equation.
Picked 20th overall in the 1988 NBA draft, guard Kevin Edwards spent his first five seasons with the Heat. While in Miami, he averaged 12.3 points, 3.5 assists and three rebounds per game.
Edwards was an athletic guard known for his ability to get to the rim and create some excitement in Miami's early years.
Billy Thompson was a 6'7'' forward, who came to Miami in its first year as a franchise, after spending his first two seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thompson's NBA career wasn't lengthy, but his three years with Miami were the best three of his career. Thompson averaged 9.5 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block per game as a member of the Heat.
Rory Sparrow was a seasoned veteran before he suited up with the Heat for the team's first two campaigns, and he played an integral leadership role in Miami's early years.
Sparrow, regarded as one of Villanova University's greatest guards, averaged 9.2 points per game in his two years with the Heat.
Dan Majerle, known otherwise as "Thunder Dan," was one of the pieces of Miami's late 90's squads that really began to make a name for the Heat franchise.
Over five seasons in Miami, Majerle averaged 7.5 points, four rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Voshon Lenard was a talented guard who was another piece to Miami's four-straight division titles to close out the '90s.
Standing 6'4'' and weighing in at 205 pounds, Lenard was a scoring threat who could get to the rim while also being able to hit from deep. Through his five seasons with the Heat, Lenard shot 38 percent from three-point land.
The eighth overall pick of the 1994 draft, the 6'9'' Brian Grant spent the last half of his career as an undersized center in the league.
Grant had some of his best years with Miami, including the 2000-01 campaign when he averaged 15.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
A fan favorite, Grant exemplified hustle in one of the Heat's darker periods as a franchise.
P.J. Brown was another member of those late '90s Heat teams that managed to make a few postseason runs.
If there were ever a perfect example of the Heat culture, one that centers itself on toughness and defense, Brown was it.
The 6'11'' forward-center provided Heat fans with one of the most memorable moments in franchise history, when he picked up New York Knicks guard Charlie Ward and spun him around in the middle of a heated moment during Game 5 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Brown averaged 11.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a block per game as a member of the Heat.
Keith Askins spent the entirety of his nine-year career with the Miami Heat after being drafted by the club as an undrafted free agent.
While his stats were never eye-popping, Askins was the heart of many of the franchise's teams in its early years. He may not have been the most talented player on the court, but he always gave it his all.
Askins joined the Heat's coaching staff immediately upon retiring in 1999 and remains on the staff to this day.
Though he never played a full season in his three years with the Heat, Williams was invaluable during Miami's run at the franchise's first title in 2006.
During that season, Williams averaged 12.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also had considerable success from downtown, hitting 37 percent of his shots from three.
Bimbo Coles played the first seven seasons of his career with Miami and ended up playing with the Heat during the final season of his career as well.
Coles was a fan favorite and another one of Miami's solid point guards in its history. Through his eight years with Miami, Coles averaged 9.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and just under one steal per game.
Miami got Sherman Douglas in the second round of the 1989 draft. Douglas would go on to be one of the better point guards in franchise history.
His best work with Miami came during his sophomore season, when he averaged 18.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 8.5 assists.
Douglas still holds the franchise record for the highest assists-per-game average with his mark of 7.9.
Another point guard drafted in the second round, Mario Chalmers has proved to be the perfect fit for Miami over the past five years.
Chalmers, who hit one of the biggest shots in Kansas Jayhawk history during the 2008 NCAA Men's National Championship, has never lacked in the confidence department.
And that has led to some growing pains with the Heat, but it's also allowed Chalmers to hit some big shots in recent years.
Chalmers owns the franchise record for most steals in a game with nine, and he's tied with Brian Shaw for most three-point field goals made in a game with 10.
LeBron James isn't the first athletic and robust forward to suit up with the Heat.
Standing at 6'8'' and weighing 240 pounds, Jamal Mashburn provided Heat fans with excitement and scoring in his four seasons with the team. Mashburn had a career scoring average of 19.1 points per game.
Mashburn signed with Miami during the beginning of his prime, as he steadily improved each year on the court in a Heat uniform. In his first season with the Heat, he averaged 13.4 points per game, and by his final season in Miami, Mashburn averaged 17.5 points per game.
Grant Long was another athletic forward who provided scoring and created plays for Miami. Long was selected by the Heat in the 1988 draft during the second round.
The 6'8'', 225-pound forward is remembered by Heat fans for his hustle, and, at times, scrappy play, as illustrated by his franchise-record 337 personal fouls during his rookie season. He was also instrumental in laying the franchise's foundation during its first decade of existence.
Long averaged 11.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game with Miami.
In many ways, Rony Seikaly, who was the Miami Heat's very first draft pick in franchise history, was symbolic of the organization's growth and steady improvement.
When he was drafted, Seikaly was viewed by many as a rough project with potential. But after steadily improving each of his first five seasons, Seikaly proved to be a project Miami still thinks fondly of to this day.
The Heat's first draft pick owns several franchise records, including his 10.4 rebounds per game over his career in Miami. Seikaly also set a franchise record with his average of 11.8 rebounds per game during the 1991-92 season, and he posted a single-game record of 34 boards on March 3, 1993.
Eddie Jones signed with the Heat in 2000, just as the franchise was entering a brief stretch of struggle and disappointment.
However, he came to Miami with eight years of experience and quickly became a fan favorite in South Beach.
Jones was primarily a scorer, and during his best year with the Heat, Jones averaged 18.5 points per game in 2002-03.
Unfortunately for Jones, he would end up missing out on Miami's title by one year. After the 2005 season, a year when Miami felt short of the finals after losing to the Detroit Pistons, Jones was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for James Posey and Jason Williams.
Posey and Williams would both be instrumental in the Heat's title run the following season.
Jones was then waived by Memphis after 29 games with the club and returned to the Heat for the remainder of the season at the veteran's minimum, but Miami ended up being swept by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
Drafted by Miami as the fourth overall pick in 1989, Glen Rice ended up being a star in the league with three All-Star appearances.
None of those appearances were with the Heat, but it was clear, Rice was a budding star during his first seasons in the league.
Rice was a prolific scorer who averaged 19.3 over his six seasons with the Heat. He owns the franchise's record for most points in a game with his 56-point performances in April 1995. Rice also set a franchise record during that night with 20 field goals made in a single outing.
On top of that, Rice also owns the franchise-record minutes played in a single game (59), and he is the holder of the franchise's record for the highest free-throw percentage in a season, with his 88 percent during the 1993-94 campaign.
Shaquille O'Neal may not have left Miami on the greatest terms, but there's still plenty of reasons for Heat fans to praise the big fella.
First and foremost, when the Heat signed O'Neal, veterans began lining up at the chance to play alongside one of the greatest centers ever and Dwyane Wade, the budding star guard.
Though Wade undoubtedly did a majority of the heavy lifting during the Heat's title run in 2006, O'Neal's presence and overall influence on the big picture cannot be ignored.
O'Neal, a three-time All-Star with Miami, also owns several Heat franchise records: His career field-goal percentage with Miami stands at 59.6 percent, he posted a 60.1 percent field-goal percentage during the 2004-05 season and he brought down 20 rebounds in a playoff game during the 2006 postseason.
When it comes to the Heat fanbase, Chris Bosh is one of the most polarizing players the franchise has ever seen.
Fans either love Bosh, or they hate Bosh.
One minute they're demanding he's traded, the next their breathing sighs of relief and sheepishly acknowledging Bosh's value to this current Heat squad.
Bosh isn't an all-time elite like LeBron James, and he's not the franchise-changing player like Dwyane Wade.
But he's still going to go down as one of the great players to ever play the game, and, in retrospect, no one will be able to deny how well he fulfilled his role on these Heat championship teams.
His overall production may be down since he arrived in Miami, but his efficiency is up. He's giving the Heat whatever they ask of him.
Bosh is as selfless as it gets, he's extremely talented and he's unique.
Udonis Haslem may not be half as talented as a majority of the guys on this list, but he has truly become the essence of Miami Heat basketball.
The Miami native and former Florida Gator is known for his hustle, toughness and watch-dog mentality on the court.
Haslem was an undrafted free agent when Miami signed him 2003 and has played with a chip on his shoulder ever since. He owns the franchise record for most games played with a total of 669. He also owns the franchise record for rebounds with his total of 5,157.
When Miami signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh three summers ago, Haslem took less money to remain at home with his family and with the Heat franchise, one that calls itself a family.
As previously stated, Haslem is nowhere near as talented of a basketball player as a majority of the players listed. And there will undoubtedly be more talented individuals to enter the Heat locker room down the road.
However, Haslem has forever sealed his seat among the Heat's elite with his grit and longstanding dedication to the organization.
This way, that way, Hardaway.
Tim Hardaway, a two-time All-Star with the Heat, is the most iconic and greatest point guard in Heat history.
And his crossover left many young Heat fans trying to mimic the move in driveways across South Florida.
Hardaway was signed by Miami in 1995 after spending his first seven seasons with the Golden State Warriors. He was quickly embraced by the Heat fanbase after averaging a double-double in his first season with Miami, scoring 17.2 points and averaging 10 assists per game.
The owner of four franchise records, including 19 assists in a single game and 806 three-point field goals over his career in Miami, Hardaway's No. 10 was retired by the Heat in 2009.
Alonzo Mourning was the heart and soul for each of the 10 Miami Heat squads he was a part of.
Though he was Miami's backup center behind Shaquille O'Neal in 2006, members of the Dallas Mavericks admitted they dreaded Mourning's minutes more than anything else.
The energy, the passion and the heart Mourning played each and every minute with were unparalleled.
His commitment to the game and being the best he could be each and every night was admired by everyone around the league.
He overcame kidney disease and still managed to play an integral role in bringing home the Heat's first title in franchise history in 2006.
To put it simply, Mourning was the kind of player coaches dream of. Not only was he exceptionally gifted when it came to both talent and physical ability, but his mental strength and will to succeed were greater than any tangible basketball skill.
Mourning made five All-Star rosters as a member of the Heat and is the franchise's record holder of blocks (1,625), blocks per game (2.7), blocks per game over a single season (3.9), blocks in a single season (294), blocks in a single game (nine) and blocks in a playoff game (nine).
For starters, there's no doubt LeBron James has been the greatest basketball player to ever put on a Miami Heat uniform.
However, I still place him below Dwyane Wade when it comes to the standpoint of the Heat franchise for a few reasons, all of which will be discussed on the next slide.
But as for James, the numbers and awards speak for themselves.
Since arriving in Miami three summers ago, James has won two-regular season MVPs, two Finals MVPs, two championships, he's made three All-NBA First Teams, three NBA All-Defensive First Teams and three All-Star teams.
The list isn't over yet.
James has also won a gold medal with Team USA, he's won the Male Athlete of the Year award for Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, and he's won the ESPY for Male Athlete of the Year as well.
And though he's played just three seasons with Miami, James already owns five franchise records: triple-doubles (10), triple-doubles in a season (four), minutes played in a playoff game (50:17), steals in a playoff game (six) and field goals made in a playoff game (19).
Dwyane Wade, or "Three," as he says he would now like to be called, was the only possible choice for the top player in Heat history.
The reasoning is simple: Wade has, undoubtedly, been the most significant player, as far as influence goes, in Heat history.
Without Wade, Miami could very well be still looking for its first championship.
Without Wade, LeBron James never comes to Miami.
Wade was overlooked by talent evaluators dating back to his college recruitment, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play the game.
It hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the most beloved figures in South Florida sports history.
Wade's 16,453 points are the most in franchise history, as are his 4,049 assists, 1,183 steals, 5,861 field goals, 4,390 free throws, 24.8 points per game and 1.8 steals per game. Wade also holds the season records for points per game (30.2), steals (2.2), points (2,386), steals (173), field goals (854) and free throws (629).
On top of that, Wade owns the Heat's records for free throws in a game (23), points in a playoff game (46), assists in a playoff game (15) and free throws in a playoff game (21).
If you weren't counting, that's a total of 17 franchise records in Wade's name.
And don't forget about his nine All-Star appearances, All-Star game MVP, two NBA skills challenge titles, NBA scoring title, two All-NBA First-Team appearances, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award, Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award, three NBA titles and one NBA Finals MVP award.
In a nutshell, the Miami Heat organization was forever changed when it called the name of Dwyane Wade with the fifth overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft.
That's why Wade sits at the top of the best players in Heat franchise history.