Miami Heat: The 15 Most Important Players in Team History

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IJuly 25, 2011

Miami Heat: The 15 Most Important Players in Team History

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    Over the past two decades, the Miami Heat have had some famed players walk onto their court in a white, red, and black uniform.

    With Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly being the first leaders, Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway taking over shortly after, Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal springing up a few seasons after, and now Wade joining forces with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat have had dynasties in the making mostly over the past 15 years with the team winning as much as 61 games and securing two number one seeds in the Eastern Conference.

    Each of those players, along with a few others, have played vital roles on this Heat team. Whether they've helped lead the team to post season success, caused a trade, or were used as trade bait, these 15 players have helped the Heat along the way to become the team that they are today: a championship contender that could be in the contention for the next five seasons. Wade, James, and Bosh already came up two games short after one season together and playing with a depleted roster for most of the season.

    These 15 players have played in either the American Airlines Arena or Miami Arena and have left a mark there that has had a positive impact on the team in its future endeavors.

15. James Posey

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2005-2007

    Why He's Important: One of the teams most reliable three-point shooters, frustrating opponents and hitting key shots during the Finals run.

    He only spent two seasons with the Heat, but James Posey knew how to make his impression felt.

    Whether it was hip-checking Kirk Hinrich or tackling Luol Deng, Posey was utilized as an enforcer aside from being a reliable three-point shooter. He was used to frustrate and bother opponents on the defensive end as a means to get their heads out of the game. Aside from his defense already being quality, he played a terrific mental game as well.

    Posey had career highs with the Heat when it came to three-point shooting as he shot 40 percent from beyond the arc, while also converting on two three-pointers per game.

14. Lamar Odom

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2003-2004

    Why He's Important: Allowed a rookie Dwyane Wade to lead the way in his first postseason and was a key component of the trade that brought in Shaquille O'Neal.  

    Even though he had only been in the league for four seasons, Lamar Odom was picked up by the Heat to be a complement in the post to sharpshooter Eddie Jones and a young rookie named Dwyane Wade. Odom nearly had the best statistical season of his career averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game while helping the team to their first postseason appearance in three seasons.

    Most importantly is what Odom did in the postseason by allowing Wade to take over. Despite being the teams leader in the regular season, Lamar played the part of a veteran and allowed Wade to do the heavy lifting. It turned out he was right as the Heat would make it to six games against the top seeded Indiana Pacers in the semifinals.

    Odom would be a key component in the deal that brought in Shaquille O'Neal as well.

13. Jamal Mashburn

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1997-2000

    Why He's Important: Served as a vital role player for the contending Heat teams during the late 1990's.

    A member of the Miami Heat teams that contended for the championship over the final years of the 1990's, Jamal Mashburn was an efficient role player that averaged around 15 points per game for the three years he spent with Miami.

    Mashburn was the perfect complement for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway as he provided the team with solid mid-range and perimeter shooting.

12. P.J. Brown

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1996-2000

    Why He's Important: Being a key role player for the contender Heat of the late-1990's. 

    Utilized mostly as a role player, P.J. Brown started at power forward for four consecutive seasons before being traded in a deal that brought Eddie Jones to Miami.

    Brown was a member of the Heat teams that were championship contenders throughout the late 1990's. He was a hard-worker and even helped the team catch a break when he body slammed New York Knicks guard Charlie Ward. Brown was suspended in a series where the Heat were down 3-1, but also managed to get key players in Larry Johnson and John Starks suspended for the rest of the series.

    Miami would go on to win 4-3 thanks mostly to Brown getting nearly the entire Knicks roster suspended.

11. Eddie Jones

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2000-2005, 2006-2007

    Why He's Important: Ushering in the new era of Heat basketball and helping the team stay afloat through its down years.

    In between the Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade era, the Miami Heat and their fan base had to deal with the Eddie Jones era.

    The Heat experienced two of its worst seasons over the past decade with a 36 win season in 2002 and a 25 win season in 2003 that allowed the Heat to get the fifth pick in the draft where they would eventually draft Dwyane Wade. Jones was at the forefront of each of those teams, he was a member of the 50 win team in 2001 as well, and was the main offensive contributor for Miami for three seasons.

    Jones was averaging 18 points per game with the Heat and was also a key member of the 2003-'04 team that featured a rookie Dwyane Wade. Unfortunately for Jones, the only season he missed with the Heat between 2000 and 2007 was the championship season.

10. Gary Payton

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2005-2007

    Why He's Important: Veteran leadership and hitting key shots during the Finals run.

    Future hall of famer Gary Payton spent the last two years of his career with the Miami Heat as a ring chaser after trying for so long with the Seattle Supersonics and even a short stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Payton came off the bench for both seasons as a back-up to Jason Williams and provided veteran leadership along the way. He averaged less than 10 points and five assists per game, but he still provided timely shots including the game winner that completed a 13 point comeback and gave the Heat life in their series against the Mavericks.

9. Rony Seikaly

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1988-1994

    Why He's Important: Introducing the city of Miami to basketball, bringing in the first fans, and helping lead the team to their first postseason.

    The first draft pick in franchise history and the Heat's first star, Rony Seikaly was taken with the ninth pick and had some of the best seasons of his career in Miami.

    Seikaly averaged a double-double for five consecutive seasons and even won Most Improved Player of the Year in his second year in the league. The Lebanese product helped popularize basketball in Miami, alongside Glen Rice, and even helped the team to their first postseason appearance.

    Seikaly spent his first seven years with the Heat and averaged as much as 17 points and 12 rebounds per game.

8. Chris Bosh

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2010-present

    Why He's Important: Helped usher in a new era of Heat basketball as well as turning the team into an automatic contender.

    He hasn't made much of an impact yet, but Chris Bosh's time will come.

    In only his first season with the team, Bosh was able to help lead the Miami Heat to within two games of their first title despite only playing together as a team for the first time in their careers. Bosh averaged 18 points and eight rebounds for the season and was one of the teams most vital players due to him being Miami's only post threat as well as one of its most consistent shooters.

    Bosh has ushered in a new era of Heat basketball where the team is set to be a perennial title contender as well as a possible perennial title winner.

7. LeBron James

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2010-present

    Why He's Important: Helped usher in a new era of Heat basketball as well as turning the team into a contender.

    By joining up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, LeBron James automatically turned the Miami Heat into a championship favorite overnight.

    In his first season with the team, James led the team in scoring at 26 points per game while also contributing seven rebounds and seven assists per contest. He and Wade struggled at first as they attempted to adjust to each others tendencies and their similar styles of play, but they have learned how to embrace each others game and have begun to thrive off of one another rather than themselves.

    James recently helped lead the Heat to within two games of the title before coming up short due to some of the worst basketball of LeBron's career. Even with the disappointing end, there's still a very likely chance that James can help lead the team to a few titles over the next few years.

6. Udonis Haslem

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2003-present

    Why He's Important: Helping lead the way for the Heat's 2006 title as the starting power forward and being the teams heart and soul on a nightly basis.

    When it comes to putting it all on the floor, Udonis Haslem is basically the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

    An absolute warrior and as true of a teammate you can ever find, Haslem is the only player remaining from the 2006 NBA Finals squad and the only member that has been on the team since 2003. Haslem has been a solid role player from the outset and has been one of the league's most solid mid-range shooters and sidekicks over the past decade.

    Udonis has averaged 10 points and eight rebounds for his career and has sacrificed many for the only team that gave him a chance after going undrafted. The team asked him to take a seat on the bench after deciding to go with Michael Beasley as the starter and Haslem went with no questions asked despite being the starter for the first six seasons of his career.

    This past summer, he declined lucrative offers from the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks in order to stay with the Heat.

    Haslem played a key role in 2006. As the starting power forward, he was given the assignment of guarding Dirk Nowitzki. He limited him to 40 percent shooting from the field and frustrated him on every jump shot he attempted.

    Udonis has completed all the blue collar work that not many other players attempt to sacrifice on a nightly basis. Haslem could care less about highlight reel plays or absurd stat lines, all he wants to do is win games for his team.

5. Glen Rice

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1989-1995

    Why He's Important: Helping lead the team to their first post season and being a key component of the deal that brought in Alonzo Mourning.

    The first star in Miami Heat history, Glen Rice led the way to the Heat's first post season appearance thanks to his unbelievable athletic ability and his stellar mid-range and perimeter game. Rice was the teams offensive leader and averaged as much as 22 points per game in his time with the Heat. He made nearly two three-pointers per game for four consecutive seasons while shooting near 40 percent from beyond the arc.

    Most importantly is what Rice brought to the team. He was highly coveted by the Charlotte Hornets and the Heat gave him up for Alonzo Mourning, who would bring more success than Rice ever brought in his six seasons with the Heat.

4. Tim Hardaway

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1995-2001

    Why He's Important: Ran the point for the championship contender Heat teams of the late-1990's.

    An original member of the Golden State Warriors famed 'Run TMC', Tim Hardaway didn't lose any of his game once he took his talents to South Beach.

    Equipped with one of the deadliest crossovers in NBA history, Hardaway came a year after Alonzo Mourning joined the team and proceeded to form one of the NBA's dynamic duos. In their first year together, the two helped lead the Heat to 61 wins and their first Conference Finals appearance.

    Hardaway played just as large a part as Mourning as he led the Heat to victories thanks to his ability to explode to the rim as well as his lethal jump shot.

    Hardaway was a member of the first team All-NBA during the 1996-'97 season after averaging 20 points and nine assists per game while also converting three-pointers. Hardaway's work on the perimeter perfectly complemented the inside play of Mourning as the two added a few dimensions to the offense and defense that not many teams could match up against.

3. Alonzo Mourning

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 1995-2002; 2004-2008

    Why He's Important: Making the Heat a contender during the 1990's, putting the team on the map, and helping lead the team to their first title in 2006.  

    The heart and soul of the Miami Heat for over a decade, Alonzo Mourning was the teams first All-Star and the first player on the team to lead the Heat to a legitimate postseason run. A year after his arrival, he was able to lead the Heat to their first Conference Finals in franchise history before losing to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in five games. They would also win 61 games, a franchise record that still stands today.

    Mourning was a warrior for the team. He put his heart and soul into every game and it rubbed off on his teammates who saw success come nearly every regular season. It wasn't until the postseason that the team would falter at the hands of the New York Knicks three times in three consecutive seasons and to the Charlotte Hornets in a sweep which marked the end of the Mourning-era. Even through all of this heartache, Mourning never once gave up on the team that embraced him since 1995.

    After a short retirement caused by a rare kidney disease, Mourning would re-join the Heat in 2004 to help the team off the bench with a defensive presence in the middle. He would help secure the team a title in 2006 with his six blocks in the decisive game six that locked the championship. He would spend a few more seasons with the Heat before suffering an injury midway through the 2007-'08 season that would force him to retire for good.

    Even though Mourning never locked the Heat a title in his prime, he still put the team on the map and truly made Miami into a basketball town for the first time in the history of South Florida sports. The intensity and tenacity he brought to every game was a true inspiration for anyone that suits up in a Heat uniform today.

2. Shaquille O'Neal

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2004-2008

    Why He's Important: Playing sidekick to Dwyane Wade on the 2006 championship team and helping the Heat dominate the NBA from 2004 to 2006.  

    His departure with the Heat certainly wasn't pretty. Still, give Shaquille O'Neal where credit is due for he was one of the key reasons as to why the Miami Heat can boast that they possess a title.

    With tension building up amongst the Los Angeles Lakers organization, the Heat traded Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and Caron Butler for O'Neal. The move is boasted as one of the greatest deals in recent NBA history because Pat Riley was somehow able to keep a hold of Dwyane Wade, who was coming off of a very impressive rookie season.

    O'Neal would finish in second in MVP voting in his first season with the Heat after averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds per game while also leading the team to 59 wins and a number one seed. Unfortunately for the Heat, they would succumb in seven games in the Conference Finals at the hands of the Detroit Pistons who took advantage of the injury-riddled Wade.

    It wouldn't be until next season that the Heat would get their revenge on the Pistons with a six game series win in the Conference Finals and then a six game series win over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. O'Neal struggled with only 13 points per game, but his presence alone was enough to allow Wade to go off for 35 points per game. O'Neal constantly drew double and triple teams and allowed Wade to get open time after time.

    The Heat might have gotten O'Neal on the decline of his career, but he still made enough of a difference to give Miami their first title.

1. Dwyane Wade

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    Years Spent with the Heat: 2003-present

    Why He's Important: He's responsible for everything that has happened since 2003.

    Take out that abysmal 2007-'08 season and Dwyane Wade has probably had the most successful career—outside of Tim Duncan—when it comes to the success of his team. The Heat have only had one losing season since he joined the team in 2003 and they have won at least 43 games over the past three seasons. They've only missed the postseason once since 2003.

    Ever since joining the team as the number five pick in the 2003 draft, the Heat have found success. They advanced to the second round in the teams first year thanks in part to Wade and then made it to the Conference Finals thanks to the combined efforts of himself and Shaquille O'Neal. They would lose in seven games mostly because of the fact that Wade suffered an injury in game five that caused him to sit out game six, and limit him in game seven.

    It was in 2006 that the NBA world would be taken by storm by Wade after he led the team back from a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals to an eventual 4-2 win. Dwyane finished the series with 35 points per game and had his performance rated by John Hollinger as the greatest of all time in an NBA Finals. He led the team back from a potential 3-0 deficit by rallying the team back from a 13 point deficit with five minutes left to an eventual two point win.

    The team would experience a few years of mediocrity following then, but they managed to stay afloat thanks to the efforts of Dwyane. He led a team with Michael Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal as the number two and three scoring options to the playoffs for two consecutive seasons before finally gaining the roster that he's been waiting years for once LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team.

    Wade came up two games short of securing the Heat's second title in franchise history, but we should expect him to deliver on a few titles over the next few seasons.