20 Biggest Letdowns in Florida Professional Sports History
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There are 4.5 seconds left and the New York Knicks are ready to inbound the ball. Then, Houston catches the ball, makes a move and PUTS UP A JUMPER!!!!
Moments later, Allan Houston would sprint across the court and throw a punch symbolic of a dagger through the Miami Heat's hearts.
Here is a compilation of this moment and 19 of the biggest letdowns in Florida professional sports history.
**Note: If you have any that you may want to replace or add to the slideshow, please let me know in the comments section below and we can discuss about it. Thanks and I hope you enjoy!
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During just their third year of existence, the Florida Panthers made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals during the 1995-1996 season. Although it was an unexpected run, it was a letdown because the Colorado Avalanche would sweep them in the series 4-0.
Moreover, they have yet to advance past the first round since the Stanley Cup run.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Their 26-game losing streak at the beginning of their franchise's history was definitely a letdown for those hoping for a great start out of the gate.
Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson fight in Game 4 of the 1998 NBA Playoffs. The Heat were the 2nd seed in the East and headed back to Miami tied, 2-2. New York was already without Patrick Ewing and players from both teams were playing their hearts out throughout the series.
Unfortunately, Mourning and Johnson were suspended for Game 5 and the Knicks would promptly blow out the Heat in Miami, advancing to the next round.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The 2010 Tampa Bay Rays had finally made their second postseason appearance in team history and after winning the AL East, were expected to be serious contenders for the World Series. Unfortunately, they underestimated a determined Texas Rangers squad in the AL Divisional Series and lost the series 2-3.
20. Derek Fisher's Shot over Jameer Nelson
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The 2008-09 Orlando Magic had, overall, a great season and their playoff run was no different.
After squeaking by Philadelphia in the first round, the Magic would beat the Boston Celtics, whom didn't have Kevin Garnett.
Finally, they would beat the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
Unfortunately, the Magic looked over-matched in the first two games of the series, but turned it around in Game 3 at home.
In fact, the Magic also had the lead late in Game 4 and just needed to hold off for a few more seconds to even the series at 2-2. Unfortunately, Jameer Nelson had a slight defensive lapse on Derek Fisher, allowing him to shoot and drain a pull-up three to tie the game.
The game would eventually go into overtime where L.A. dominated Orlando. They would take a commanding 3-1 series lead that wouldn't be relinquished, since the Lakers did win it 4-1.
However, the sole thought in the minds of a lot of Orlando fans is the shot by Fisher and the devastating blow it possessed to the psyche of the Orlando team.
19. 2005 Florida Marlins Didn't Make the Playoffs
Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado
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The 2005 Florida Marlins were supposed to be a playoff contender and it was also one of the few times that management actually paid a hefty price for the team.
With a payroll worth $60 million, the Florida Marlins started the season slow; they even headed out of the All-Star break hovering around .500.
Fortunately, they would hit a stride and get their record to 78-67. In fact, this only left them five games behind the first place Atlanta Braves with two more series still to go against them.
Sadly, the Fish would finish the season 5-12 and end the season in a disappointing 3rd place finish at
Apparently, this, coupled with the horrid attendance numbers, did not rest easy with management and they slashed the payroll from $60 million to $15 million for the 2006 season.
18. Lack of an Elite WR Drafted in the First Round
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It really doesn't make any sense.
The state of Florida has three NFL teams and none of them have drafted an elite NFL wide receiver in the first round.
In fact, the state of Florida is the only state with multiple teams to have such a problem.
Maryland - Art Monk (Washington Redskins)
New York - Eric Moulds (Buffalo Bills), Keyshawn Johnson (NY Jets)
Texas - Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), Michael Irvin (Dallas Cowboys)
Ohio - Eddie Brown ( Cincinatti Bengals), Paul Warfield (Cleveland Browns)
California - Tim Brown (Oakland Raiders), Jerry Rice (San Francisco 49ers)
Missouri - Torry Holt (St. Louis Rams)
The only player that got close was O.J. McDuffie, whom was a fan favorite in Miami and, if not for a career-ending injury in his prime, could have possibly eliminated this slide.
Instead, the teams have been notable for busts at wide receiver in the first round recently.
Jacksonville - Reggie Williams, Matt Jones
Tampa Bay - Reidel Anthony, Michael Clayton
Miami - Ted Ginn Jr., Yatil Green
17. Tampa Bay Lightning Post-2004 Stanley Cup Run
During the 2003-04 NHL season, Tampa Bay pulled an improbable run to obtain the Stanley Cup championship, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-3.
Unfortunately, the 2004-05 NHL season was cancelled due to the lockout, and they were unable to have the opportunity to defend their championship.
The Lightning would make the playoffs again during the 2005-06 season but, with a depleted roster, were unable to advance past the first round.
Since then, they had been struggling to put together a quality season. This was until the 2010-11 season when they made an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
16. Shaquille O'Neal Leaves the Orlando Magic Via Free Agency
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Shaquille O'Neal was easily the Orlando Magic's most dominant player during his four-year tenure with the team, leading the team to an NBA Finals appearance in 1995.
However, rumors swirled that O'Neal may leave the Magic after the 1995-96 season.
For the most part, O'Neal stayed mum about the subject and instead, just made remarks such as "The team doesn't respect [coach] Hill" in reference to his coach in Orlando.
After reports started to swirl about Shaq's personal life, Shaq decided to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers and said that "he felt like a big fish in a dried-up pond" in Orlando.
Unfortunately, the Magic would be unable to find someone to fill in Shaq's shoes until the arrival of Tracy McGrady.
15. Miami's "Big Three" Loses in the NBA Finals Against the Dallas Mavericks
Lebron James and Dwyane Wade
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How is arguably the most hyped team in NBA history only placed 15th on the list? To be honest, the "Big Three" did exceed expectations for their first season together.
Many media analysts had the Boston Celtics as the preseason Eastern Conference champions.
However, any time an over-hyped team fails to deliver a championship, it is viewed as a catastrophic letdown, even if most of it is being forced by the media.
In fact, if the Heat are unable to deliver a championship during the "Big Three" tenure, expect this to easily be in the top five.
14. Jimmy Johnson Era
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Jimmy Johnson was a two-time NFL champion with the Dallas Cowboys before heading to the TV booth. However, the Dolphins were able to lure him out and Super Bowl expectations were immediately placed on the team under Jimmy Johnson.
Unfortunately, just like any coach, Johnson struggled with replacing a legendary coach in Don Shula.
Despite three straight playoff appearances, the Dolphins had a 2-3 record under his watch.
He nearly resigned before his final season, but Dan Marino was able to convince him to come out of retirement for another season.
Sadly, this resulted in the terrible defeat in Jacksonville where his team lost 7-62 and promptly caused his retirement.
13. Lack of a Championship for Miami's "Mini-Dynasty" During 1995-2001
Tim Hardaway, Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning
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From 1995-2001, the Heat were among the top three best teams in the Eastern Conference. During that span, they won four straight division titles, went to the playoffs six times, and had one Eastern Conference finals appearance.
However, the biggest culprit was their biggest rival: the New York Knicks. During this stretch, the two teams faced off in the playoffs four straight times with the Knicks winning three of the series.
A couple of other detriments to their run was the persistent knee injuries to Tim Hardaway, and the unfortunate diagnosis of Mourning's kidney after the 2000 Olympics.
12. Marino's Last Stand
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Dan Marino is arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and beloved by nearly all Miami Dolphin fans.
After watching fellow 1983 QB classmate John Elway pull off back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, the media and Miami fans expected Marino to follow with a similar closing performance in the Super Bowl.
After a thrilling comeback win against the Seattle Seahawks, the Dolphins faced off against the surging Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sadly, the Dolphins would lose in devastating fashion to the Jaguars 7-62, and promptly cause the retirements of Dan Marino and coach Jimmy Johnson.
So much for a happy ending.
11. Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield
Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick
What few realize is that the Miami Dolphins were one of the best teams of the 1970s.
Outside of the "Perfect Season" during the 1972 NFL Season, the Dolphins also went to the Super Bowl during the 1971 and 1973 NFL seasons.
If not for an incredible win by the Oakland Raiders in the 1974 NFL playoffs in the game known as the "Sea of Hands", who knows what could have happened to the Dolphins that year.
However, the bigger question is how dominant the Dolphins could have been without the terrible news after the 1974 NFL season.
During a time when free agency was non-existent, three Dolphins players decided to leave Miami for the WFL.
What made this significant is that Miami lost its top deep receiving threat in Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, top running back Larry Csonka and the third head of their three-headed running attack in Jim Kiick.
Although the Dolphins would have winning records and even win a couple of division titles after their departure, they would not win another playoff game until the 1982 lockout-shortened NFL season.
**Photo Courtesy of prostores.com
10. Nick Saban's Second Season
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Nick Saban came in with high expectations, as he was deemed a part of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. During his first season, he got off to a very slow start and had the team at a 3-7 record.
Nevertheless, the team didn't give up. They pulled off six straight wins to finish the season 9-7 and barely miss the playoffs.
Thus, Nick Saban's second season was expected to bring the Dolphins back to the playoffs, especially with the arrival of Daunte Culpepper.
Unfortunately, the season became a disaster with Culpepper's injury not fully healed and inconsistencies found on both sides of the ball.
Furthermore, the worst part of the season was the off-the-field drama between Coach Saban and the media.
Starting in late November, he kept being asked the question whether he would fill the Alabama vacant head coach position. He responded by denying the rumors and even said in a late December press conference that he would not become the next Alabama coach.
Two weeks later, amidst a meeting with Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, he fled to Alabama to discuss the vacant head coaching position. Saban would be named the head coach a couple of days later.
For the next couple of years (and possibly to this day), Nick Saban's name is filled with hate among the Dolphin faithful.
9. The Injuries of "Penny" Hardaway and Grant Hill
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I don't think people truly know how great Hardaway could have been. He was starting to blossom into a superstar and was in the top five of most advertised players during his first couple of years in the league.
However, injuries first took away his explosiveness. Then, the next stretch of injuries took away his first step and forced him to be a spot-up shooter.
After that, Penny just wasn't the same player he used to be and this all occurred before he was the age of 28.
Likewise, Grant Hill was becoming a rising star with the Detroit Pistons and then he inked a deal with the Orlando Magic.
Immediately after he signed the deal, he would only play 47 games for the next four seasons in Orlando.
Before the injury plague, he was averaging 22+ pts/gm, 1.5+ stls./gm, 6.4+ asts./gm and 7.2 rebs./gm.
The sad part is that this injury plague happened when he turned 28 years old and didn't start until he was 32 years old.
Therefore, it not only robbed Orlando four years of having the great player in Grant Hill, but it dramatically diminished what was a potential HOF career for him.
Moreover, it messed up the potential dynamic duo of McGrady and Hill on the same team. Unfortunately, we were only able to see its fruits during the 2004-05 season.
8. Unable to Witness the Dynamic Duo of Mcgrady and Howard
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Think about that for a moment. The Orlando Magic drafted Howard and then traded McGrady to the Houston Rockets five days later.
I am one to hate to play the "what-if" game, but what if the Magic held on to McGrady and Grant Hill miraculously stayed healthy with a young Dwight Howard? McGrady would get a healthy formidable big man and Howard would have had the perennial perimeter player that he always needed.
Unfortunately, due to the trade, we were unable to get to experience even a glimpse of the combo.
7. 1996-1999 Jacksonville Jaguars
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This four-year stretch was arguably the best start to any expansion team in NFL history. In fact, they made two conference finals appearances during this stretch too.
Unfortunately, they were unable to get even a Super Bowl appearance during this formidable stretch.
6. 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars Playoff Run
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The Jacksonville Jaguars had a historic season in 1999, finishing the regular season with a 14-2 record.
Then, they dominated the Miami Dolphins 62-7 to advance to the AFC championship game against the Tennessee Titans.
After the win, the Jaguars were heavily favored to not only win the next game against the Titans, but win the Super Bowl too.
Despite leading 14-10 at halftime, the Jaguars would give up 23 unanswered points and lose the game 33-14.
Unfortunately, Jacksonville has won a total of one playoff game since this playoff run.
5. 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Playoff Run
The Tampa Bay Bucs made the playoff run based off what they do best: defense. With an 11-5 record, the Bucs were able to secure a first-round bye for the playoffs. Then, during the Divisional playoffs, they beat the Washington Redskins 14-13.
Next, in a surprisingly defensive battle, Tampa Bay were in control of the game against St. Louis and look poised to advance to the Super Bowl.
However, an untimely mistake (safety during the 2nd quarter) and a touchdown pass by Kurt Warner in the 4th, put the Rams ahead 11-6.
All Tampa Bay needed to do was to score a touchdown, but their offense was not built to carry the team and was unable to score the go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter.
After the game, Shaun King, the second-year pro out of Tulane, looked like he would be a long-term starter for the Bucs and make the offense better.
In addition, the defense was viewed as one of the best in the league after their performance against the NFL's "Greatest Show on Turf".
Unfortunately, the offense only got worse during the rest of Tony Dungy's tenure with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
4. 1985 Dolphins Super Bowl Performance
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Dan Marino was in charge of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. He threw for an NFL-record 5,084 passing yards and a then-NFL record 48 touchdown passes.
In fact, they blew out their first two playoff opponents.
For instance, they defeated the Seattle Seahawks 31-10 and then they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-28.
In a head-to-head matchup with Joe Montana, many expected it to be a showdown between two of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Unfortunately, the game did not live up to its billing. With San Francisco playing 30 minutes away from their home stadium, they demolished the Dolphins 38-16 in a "virtual" home game for the Super Bowl.
Since it was Marino's third year, many thought it would be the first of many for the young QB. Unfortunately, it would end up being his first and last Super Bowl appearance.
3. Mike Keenan
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The Mike Keenan era could be summed up in one word: disastrous. When he was hired by the Florida Panthers in 2001, there were high expectations for him to turn the franchise around. In fact, many believed that his bad performance during his Vancouver coaching stint was behind him after leading Boston to a winning record in the 2000-01 season.
Unfortunately, that couldn't have been further from the truth. During his two-year coaching stint with the Panthers, he led the team to 45 wins out of a possible 153 games.
However, the Panthers gave him a second chance to prove himself by making him the GM before the 2004 season.
His two-year stint as GM had a couple of good points, but was mostly a disaster. This disaster was highlighted by the 2006 blockbuster trade of All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen and goalie Alex Auld.
**Note: He actually coached for three seasons, but he only lasted 15 games into his third season, which is why I left it as a two-year stint.
2. Allan Houston's Game Winning Shot in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Playoffs
The Miami and New York rivalry was truly one of the greatest rivalries throughout the 1990s. However, there was no series more devastating to the Heat than during the 1998-99 lockout season.
The Heat came in as the No. 1 seed after winning a tiebreaker between the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. The Heat also looked like the favorites to take the East.
Unfortunately, the N.Y. Knicks had other plans and the first four games of the series were blowout wins by both teams.
In Game 5, the Heat had a one-point lead with less than 20 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, and just had to pull off one last defensive stop.
Well, like the picture depicts, Allan Houston found a seam in the defense and tossed a floater just outside the lane. The ball bounced around forever before dropping through the net with 0.8 seconds left in the game and, also, dropping the Heat's hopes.
The Heat would become only, at the time, the second No. 1 seed to lose to the No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history.
10-plus years later, it is still the most devastating loss in team history.
**Photo Courtesy of www.nj.com
1. 1998 Florida Marlins "Fire Sale"
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Yes, there have been huge letdowns in Florida professional sports history, but there will NEVER be one as devastating as the 1998 fire sale of the Florida Marlins.
First, the Marlins had pulled off the most improbable record in MLB History by winning the World Series the quickest in their team history (The Arizona Diamondbacks would do it in less time when they won the 2001 World Series).
In fact, the Marlins were fifth in the N.L. in attendance!!
However, management decided to reward the city and the team with a "fire sale".
Of the 43 players that played at least one game for the 1997 team, only six players remained by the end of the 1998 MLB season.
Here were the list of players that were left from the team:
* = starter on 1997 championship team
* - Luis Castillo
* - Livan Hernandez
**Note: I would also include Alex Fernandez, but he injured his arm during the 1998 season and wasn't the same pitcher.
As for the players let go, the list is simply too long and elaborate to put in this slide. However, the 1998 fire sale is one huge contributing reason why the attendance has been terrible since then.