Miami Heat: The 10 Most Exciting Players in Franchise History
A trip down memory lane, if you please...
Coming up, we have a look at the top ten most exciting players in the twenty-aught-year history of the Miami Heat franchise.
Despite the self-evident title, it bears mentioning that the players on this list need not have been the best in team history, or even particularly productive for that matter (though most on the list are.) All that gets taken into consideration was each player's ability to bring the fans out of their seats.
Also, allow me to get the honorable mentions out of the way...
-Eddie Jones: super-smooth, would be on the list if he had played more prime years in Miami.
-Jamal Mashburn: scored more than his share of baskets.
-Keith Askins: athletic role player who was a fixture on the team in the 90's
-Jamario Moon/Shawn Marion: both very entertaining wing players while there, but neither played a full season for Miami.
-Shaquille O'Neal: somehow I forgot about him and J Turner busted me...
Now then, on to the top ten.
10. Harold Miner (1992-1995)
Of course, this is exactly the kind of list "Baby Jordan" belongs on.
At the time, Miner was one of those guys who could justify the price of a courtside ticket with a single breakaway slam. He was one of the league's best entertainers with the basket all to himself.
He pretty much terrorized the '93 Dunk Contest, then went ahead and took the '95 crown as well. He had above-average if unamazing hang-time, and the body control to pull off some mid-air maneuvers, but what won him those contests was his finishes...and these were pure power.
In fact, the ridiculous amount of foot-pounds that went into his dunks would have made "Baby Dominique" a more fitting nickname.
It might also have spared him the curse of being (at best) a mid-level athlete being associated with ol' MJ by an unimaginative media. Then he might have lasted longer in the league.
Then again, maybe if he had done more than be exciting once in a while...
9. Jason Williams (2005-2008)
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Darkhorse pick? Maybe.
Elbow pass J-Will... sleight-of-hand J-Will... hair-trigger J-Will.
Now I'm not saying he became a model of on-court discipline when he came to the Heat, but there was a newfound restraint in his game that allowed him run the point without being detrimental to the offense.
That said, the vintage J-Will would make an occasional appearance with a no-look pass or perfect alley-oop. It took a certain fearless approach to playmaking to be the alley to D-Wade's oop as often as he was.
Williams' cool hand made so many highlight plays possible in his time there that he merits inclusion on this list, at least in my book. It's also safe to call Williams one of the best this franchise has ever had at running the break.
So what if he shot the ball like he was surrounded by carnies?
8. Caron Butler (2002-2004)
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Like a few others on this list, Caron Butler also comes in among the top nicknames in Miami history with "Tough Juice."
He didn't spend all that many years in Miami, as he was part of the deal that brought Shaquille O'Neal over from Los Angeles. But in his time there he was a fan favorite for his high energy game.
Intensity was the thing that made him so fun to watch, and he had a rookie year especially full of highlights. As a defender, a finisher, and a bit of an intimidator, he did a variety things on a nightly basis, both crowd-pleasing and opponent-discouraging...
Some would point out that he just played two seasons in Miami, but I say those were two pretty meaningful seasons, which makes his tenure with this team stand out.
Butler formed a trifecta along with Dwyane Wade and Lamar Odom that carried the Heat to the East Semis, one year removed from the draft lottery. And this was before The Diesel even came to South Beach.
7. Steve Smith (1991-1994)
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If I told you to name a shooting guard who was a fifth overall draft pick, an All-Rookie first teamer, wore No. 3 and helped the Heat break playoff drought in his rookie year, who would it be?
If you answered Dwyane Wade, you're not wrong. If you answered "Smitty," you know your history.
Steve Smith, arguably the master of the half-spin move, played with a particular flair and was a regular in the highlight reels during his Heat tenure. He was deceptively quick and springy, and got to the rim frequently.
He also played with a chip on his shoulder that only made the highlight plays all the more frequent.
Did you know: Like Wade, Smith has also been an All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist and an NBA champion, only after leaving the Heat. He achieved these as a Hawk, a Blazer and a Spur, respectively.
6. Rony Seikaly (1988-1994)
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You young'uns going "Who?"
Do your homework.
They called Rony Seikaly "The Spin Doctor," and he was the first face of the team when they entered the league.He was a Most Improved Player winner, and still leads the team (or places behind only Alonzo Mourning) in all-time rebounds, blocks and double-doubles.
Okay, so he was a great player, but why is he on this list, you may ask.
Well for one, they called him "The Spin Doctor." You don't earn a nickname like that by standing around just being big. As a highly mobile and decently polished offensive center, Seikaly in him prime would be a rarity today.
As far as all-time visibility, it didn't help that this was no quite so noteworthy in his day, what with the Hakeems, Admirals, Ewings. But Seikaly would put the moves on opposing bigs with regularity.
He could put the ball on the floor, create in the post or—you guessed it—put the spin move on you, which would then result in any number of finishes up to and including a good Spalding headache.
5. Tim Hardaway (1996-2001)
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I could end it there, and nobody would say anything.
But on top of owning one of the deadliest and exciting moves in basketball in his time, Hardaway was an All-Star playmaker with a flair for scoring big baskets. If anybody made Miami fans oooh and aaah over the years, it was him.
Miami itself was more of a bruising, no-frills team at the height of the Mourning/Hardaway period, so there weren't too many of those high-flying plays people normally associate with the word "exciting," but if you were a fan there were few things as beautiful as a killer-cross followed by a smooth dish.
To this day, Timbug is the best point guard in franchise history, and it's not because of his conservative style of play...
In terms of just generally making the opposition look foolish, he'd be top three on this list.
4. Glen Rice (1990-1995)
Glen Rice didn't really have a nickname, he just had a sick game.
And knee straps.
Seriously though, let's just go ahead and call Rice the purest shooter in Miami history and be done with it. The guy did it from all angles and all ranges.
He was also prone to huge shooting streaks; one such streak netted him the 1995 Three-point Shootout. This one time he got so hot from the field his home jersey was black by the end of the game.
I kid, but not really.
Glen Rice tortured defenses, even with his sometimes stubborn refusal to stop firing, which by the very law of averages is bound to produce some highlights. Conversely, he was prone to the kind of scoring outbursts that could positively electrify a home crowd.
He also kept defenses guessing by getting to the rim with no fear if they took the jumper away from him. So as a defender, you could pick your poison. As a Heat fan, it was sweet either way.
3. LeBron James (2010-Present)
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Well, come on.
LeBron isn't quite the logic-defying human projectile he once was some five years and 30 pounds ago, but come on...
We all know what the guy is capable of, and even though the vast majority of his career reel is non-Miami, he's easily atop this list just knowing what's likely to follow in the next few seasons before gravity catches up to him.
He has the power of a center, and still finds a way to run and jump around (not to mention run the offense) like a guy half his size. He's like that old Transformer figurine that was part spaceship and part train.
Oh my god... I think LeBron James' father is Astrotrain...
2. Alonzo Mourning (1995-2002, 2005-2008)
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When Alonzo Mourning wasn't grabbing rebounds, blocking dunks or breaking fingers at the rim, he occupied his time by being a large, screaming mountain of muscle.
Although Mourning didn't have the most highlight-worthy offense (even in his earlier heavy-scoring years,) he was a defensive stopper of legendary caliber. He was like a human delete button, which rightfully earned him some Defensive Player hardware.
If you paid to go to a Miami Heat home game, one of those feature attractions you hoped to see was a huge rejection or two, the kind only Zo could deliver.
In other words, the kind that puts the opposing player on his back, watching the other nine guys get back in transition, regretting his bravado. The kind that makes the same player avoid the paint like hot lava for the rest of the game.
In fact, if someone was going to dunk on Mourning, it was going to have to be an incredible play in itself. This generally just increased the likelihood of coming out of your seat either way whenever he met someone at the rim.
Somehow he still delivered these fairly regularly even into his twilight years with ageless intensity.
1. Dwyane Wade (2003-Present)
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Dwyane Wade is, and likely always will be the king of Miami.
One of the jewels in his crown is for being easily the most electrifying player in franchise history. For eight years and running, he's been a highlight machine. If you were to string together all his highlight plays back-to-back uninterrupted, you could fill an entire row at Blockbuster with dozens of three-hour DVD's.
D-Wade will score on you, and oh, will he ever score. He'll dunk on you when you least expect it, and even if you expect it he'll either dunk on you anyway or go under/around/betweem the defense in the most improvised and unorthodox ways.
After he scores on you and you get possession, he'll either strip it right back from you for the fast break, or perhaps he'll just go meet you in midair and kindly help your layup/dunk attempt back down to earth. Whatever it takes.
One key thing I've always noticed about Wade is that 6'4", nobody every says anything about him being too small for his game, because he plays big that well. Anybody else his size trying to do the things he does would get laughed off the team.