The past 21 years have been an up and down roller-coaster ride for the Miami Heat.
The franchise has gone from the bottom to the top while regressing a little bit in recent years. While experiencing heartbreak and glory, the franchise has produced some of the NBA's most storied players.
Through it all though, the Heat have come out with an NBA championship and a number of division titles all while heralding one of the top players in the league right now in Dwyane Wade.
It has also brought the NBA some of it's most hallowed and emotional players in Alonzo Mourning.
The Heat as we know it today are a young, inexperienced core led by a five-year veteran in Wade. The team is waiting to bring in it's next big player that can bring the team back to it's former glory.
There have been many players that have contributed to the Miami Heat's success and those that have been with the team to bring them to where they are and what they mean to us today.
Grant Long was part of the Heat's first year team that lost it's first 17 games and started the franchise that we know today. He was a second round pick in the 1988 draft, while playing six solid seasons with the Heat.
He averaged nearly 12 points in his tenure with the team and was known mostly for his rebounding and aggressive defense that would cause trouble for any team.
He finished his career in 2003 as a member of the Boston Celtics, but he will be most remembered for his first years as a part of the Heat.
Eddie Jones grew up in South Florida and joined the Miami Heat in 2000 after a number of years with the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets.
Jones came to the team and immediately became an impact as he was the face of the franchise during most of the early 2000s when Alonzo Mourning was forced to leave the team.
Jones was also a huge part in the Heat's 2004 playoff run. As the eight seed, Jones and the rest of the Heat played the number one seed, the Indiana Pacers, to six games in the first round.
Jones was traded in 2005 and rejoined the team in 2007 where he contributed to the team.
Steve Smith was the number five pick in the 1991 draft and started his career as a member of the Heat before leaving and returning for a brief stint in 2005.
Smith's career developed as a member of the Heat where he topped off at 17 points per game before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks after only three seasons.
As Smith's minutes went down at the end of his career, he returned to the Miami Heat in the 2004-05 season and played 13 games before retiring as a member of the franchise where it all began.
Thunder Dan Majerle, a three-time all star, joined the Heat in 1996 after a storied career with the Phoenix Suns.
Majerle's specialty of the three point shot impacted the team throughout his five years as a member of the Heat. He averaged at least one three-pointer per game while shooting at least 35% from behind the arc.
Majerle was hampered with injuries in a number of seasons with the Heat but his tenacity that he brought to each game will always be remembered when you go back into the Heat archives.
If you consider yourself a Miami Heat fan, a requirement is to know who Rony Seikaly is. Seikaly was part of the Heat before Dwyane Wade even thought of playing basketball.
Seikaly was the first ever draft pick for the Heat and was the face of the franchise for years as he produced some of his best years as a member of the Heat.
He spent the first six years of the franchise in Miami and brought the team into the limelight after a few early dismal years.
Seikaly won the NBA's most improved player after his rookie season when he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds. Seikaly averaged a double-double for five of the six years.
Seikaly would have a few productive years after his time with the Heat, but none that would match his first years.
Seikaly showed his commitment to the Heat after being frequently seen at the games as a member of the audience after his playing days were over.
G-Money was a fun player to watch when he played for the Heat. Rice had a great 15-year career and it all started down in Miami.
Glen Rice was a productive player as if there ever was one as he played in at least 77 games in each of his six seasons with the team. He was one of the franchises' No. 1 players for the first years on the young team.
Rice averaged nearly 20 points per game before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets for another historic Heat player.
Rice is also one of three members of the Heat to win a three-point competition.
Rice brought the team to two playoffs, but failed to ever advance. G-Money will always be remembered as an important part of the franchise.
Hardaway started as a member of the Golden State Warriors, but to Heat fan's he's one of us.
Hardaway had a storied career in Miami making the all-star game three times and making the All-NBA first team in 1997 when he averaged 20 points and nine assists per game. In that season, he almost averaged three three-pointers a game.
Hardaway was one of the main reasons for the Heat's success of the late 1990's. He also brought the Heat to stardom winning a number of division championships including bringing the team to their first conference championship while taking a game from the Chicago Bulls.
Hardaway gave the team its best franchise record that still stands today and always brought out the best in his teammates as the point guard to the team.
He still holds the franchise record for most assists and was the second fastest player ever to reach 5,000 points and 2,500 assists. Hardaway was one of the Heat's storied players and could probably still be a star point guard for the team if still playing today.
Diesel. Big Aristotle. Bad rapper. Whatever you want to call him, he's known for one thing: Bringing championships.
Shaquille O'Neal came to the team in the 2004-05 season as a shock to most of the NBA as the Heat did not seem to be one of the destinations for Shaq's new home.
Shaq made an immediate impact on the team bringing them to a number one seed and sweeping the first two series before losing in seven games in the conference finals.
It did not matter to the Heat though as they would return next season advancing all the way to the NBA Finals and winning in six games over the Dallas Mavericks.
While Shaq only averaged 14 points per game in the finals, his presence offensively drew constant double teams that allowed his teammates to flourish and do all that they needed to do to bring the team to glory.
While the Heat and Shaq had a hard falling out, he must still be remembered for his contribution in bringing the team a championship and being the emotional and physical leader for the team.
There is no Miami Heat without Alonzo Mourning, plain and simple. Zo was the Heat and still is.
Zo has possibly one of the biggest influences on the franchise when he was a member or when he was off the team. When he came to the team after being traded from the Charlotte Hornets, he had an immediate impact on the team and had the best years of his storied career as a part of the Heat.
He went through possibly the roughest of stretches as a member during years where the Heat were a top seed in the east for a number of years. Unfortunately, the Heat experienced heartbreak year after year at the hands of the New York Knicks.
Zo was experiencing the best years of his career until a life-threatening kidney ailment nearly ended his career and almost his life. He left the team and joined the New Jersey Nets for two years, before finally making a return to the Miami Heat in 2004-05.
Zo was the emotional leader of the team even when his career was waning down and will be most remembered for his Game Six heroics in the finals when he had five blocks.
Zo is the only player to have his jersey retired as a member of the Heat, was a member of the all-NBA first team in 1998-99 and won two defensive player of the year awards.
The Lakers might have Magic Johnson and the Celtics might have Larry Bird, but the Miami Heat have Alonzo Mourning and I couldn't be any happier with that.
It took much deliberation trying to figure out who would be No. 1 on this list, but after much thought I had to put Dwyane Wade as the top player of this franchise.
Coming into the league in the 2003 season under the shadow of heavily hyped LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Wade brought energy into a young, developing team that was looking for an answer.
Wade brought the answer and brought his intensity with it. With a core of himself, Lamar Odom and Eddie Jones, Wade brought the team to six games with then No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers in his first season.
It was history from there as Shaq joined Wade and was proclaimed 'Flash' by his new sidekick. With the duo in tact, they brought the team to it's second conference finals and it's second best record of the franchise.
The team fell short due to a number of injuries suffered by Wade throughout the series, but Wade knew he could make it to the finals with whatever it took.
Sure enough the year after, Wade and the Heat made easy work of the Eastern Conference playoffs and advanced to the Finals to face the Dallas Mavericks.
With five minutes, the Heat found themselves down by 14 points. While they were already losing the series 2-0, the Heat appeared to be a one and done team but Wade knew he couldn't allow that to happen.
He rallied his team and brought them their first finals victory. Wade would go on to lead the team to win it's next four games and bring the team its' first NBA championship. Wade averaged 35 points per game and won a deserved NBA finals MVP.
Wade would have to fight through two injury plagued seasons before finally coming through with a breakthrough 2008-09 season where he averaged 30 points per game and was apart of his first All-NBA First Team.
He also finished third in both the MVP and defensive player of the year voting where he set the record for most blocks by a player under 6'4".
We have only just broken ground with Wade who is now just reaching his prime. Going into the future, the Miami Heat should feel very lucky to have him as a part of the franchise for now and hopefully the rest of his career.