The Heat is on! The Miami Heat, that is. Though relatively new to the NBA, the Heat has already made its mark. In just two decades, the team has played in three Eastern Conference Finals, and taken home on NBA Finals trophy. The Heat has even produced one basketball Hall of Fame member, in Pat Riley. How did it all begin, and how did the Heat climb to the pinnacle of the NBA totem pole?
Once upon a time, Miami had hosted an ABA team, the Miami Floridians. In 1988, the Heat was one of four new NBA expansion teams, within two years. How did they become the Heat? Fans participated in a “name the team” contest, defeating the other finalist names, including the “Flamingo” and the “Waves.” Here are some interesting facts about Miami, the city that the Heat represents:
o average annual days of sunshine: 250
o average winter temperature: 60-75° F, or 15-24° C
o average annual rainfall: 1.07 inches per week
o number of golf courses: over 1,200
o major industries: international trade, software, tourism
Though the Miami Heat finished at 15-67 during their first season (1988-1989), they earned an outstanding 61-21 record by the 1996-1997 campaign. After defeating the Orlando Magic (3-2), and the New York Knicks (4-2), they fell to the mighty Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals (4-1).
Then in 2005 and 2006, the Miami Heat made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. In the 2004-2005 season, the Heat’s addition of Shaquille O’Neal complemented Dwyane Wade and made them immediate contenders for an NBA championship. After racking up an impressive 59-23 regular season record, the Heat eliminated the New Jersey Nets (4-0), and the Washington Wizards (4-0). However, they lost the Conference Finals to the Detroit Pistons (4-3), in part to Wade’s injury.
During the next season, the Miami Heat was on a mission. They added Gary Payton, Antoine Walkers, and Jason Williams, adding further depth to their squad. Though the team was not consistent, they ended the regular season with a 52-30 record. In the playoffs, they disposed of the Chicago Bulls (4-2), the New Jersey Nets (4-1), and the Detroit Pistons (4-2). In the NBA Finals, the Heat battled it out against the Dallas Mavericks, ultimately winning their first NBA Championship (4-2).
Throughout its history, the Miami Heat has had several key players, including:
Tim Hardaway: All-time assist leader for the Heat (1,947), and contributed to some of the Heats’ greatest seasons.
Alonzo Mourning: All-time leading scorer for the Heat, and Defensive Player of the Year twice (1999, 2000)
Shaquille O’Neal: Certainly a future Hall-of-Famer, and a key player in the Heat’s first NBA championship.
Glen Rice: Averaged 20 points-per-game during his last five seasons with the Heat.
Dwyane Wade: A member of NBA’s All-Rookie team and Finals MVP during the 2006 series.
Though the Miami Heat is just two decades old, it has already earned an NBA Championship. Use Miami Heat merchandise to cheer on the team as it turns up the heat!