Miami Heat NBA Basketball

The history of Miami Heat began in the mid-1980’s through the efforts of Zev Buffman, entertainment guru, Billy Cunningham, a head coach and NBA Hall of Famer, and Lewis Schaffel, a leading sports agent. The Heat joined the league expansion in 1988-1989 with three other teams, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Charlotte Hornets. The team of young hopefuls under their coach, Ron Rothstein, moved from the Midwest to the Atlantic Division in 1989, but made little progress until 1993-1994, when they posted their first winning record of 42-40 for the franchise. Although this winning season took them to the playoffs, they lost the series to the Atlanta Hawks. Subsequently, the Arison family, of Carnival Cruise Lines, bought out Cunningham’s shares, giving Marilyn Arison an 88% interest in the team. The change in ownership, along with the frequent trading of players, added to the poor showing of the team in 1994-1995.

Miami Heat took on a new look, however, with the hiring of Pat Riley, a New York native and former coach of the Lakers and the NY Knicks, as team president and head coach in 1995. The original team was replaced with important trades that included Mourning, Myers, Ellis, and Hardaway, leaving only Keith Askins from the original team. Once again, the Heat posted a 42-40 season that brought them to a first round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, who literally destroyed them with a three game sweep. The 1996-97 season saw Riley get his 13th NBA division title in 15 seasons, along with a second matchup, and yet another loss against Chicago in the playoffs. The intense rivalry, numerous fouls, and physical confrontation between the Knicks and the Heat began in 1997 and continued through 2000, as they faced each other in the playoffs more than any other two teams in the NBA. More new players were added to the roster of the team including Dan Majerle, P.J. Brown, Jamal Mashburn, and Voshon Lenard. Alonzo Mourning was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, 1999-2000.

The Heat finished their last full season, 1999-2000, in the old arena and moved to their present home in the American Airlines Arena. By 2000, the Heat had established a formidable record by winning the Atlantic Division four years in a row. Under the legendary coaching of Pat Riley, the team began to rebuild in the following years by adding Caron Butler and Rasual Butler in the first and second draft round of 2002. In 2003, Riley moved from head coach to the position of team president, while the coach position was taken over by Stan Van Gundy. The Heat, led by Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, 2002 draft pick, and Dwyane Wade, the 2003 pick, returned to the playoffs, but were defeated once again. With the important acquisition in 2004-2005 of Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers, in exchange for Cutler, Odom, and Grant, the team now had 11 new players for the 2004-2005 season. Riley resumed the position of head coach in December 2005 and Rothstein stepped down to assistant head coach.

In a history-making event, the Heat gained their first NBA championship by defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the June 2006 NBA Finals, with Dwyane Wade named MVP. Riley received the distinction of being named Coach of the Year for three separate teams and earned a place on the list of the top ten coaches of all time. The fans remain divided in their support of the Knicks and the Heat, as many New Yorkers have moved to South Florida and still show their loyalty to their East coast team. Although the rivalry between the two teams still exists, it has lessened considerably in recent years due to the problems within the Knicks franchise and the large turnover of key players for the Miami Heat. With the drive and determination of their prestigious coach and a roster of star players, it is entirely possible that the Heat will capture another NBA title in the near future.

Miami Heat supports numerous organizations and programs including Shoot for the Stars, Learn to Swim, Adult Wheels, and Youth Sparks Wheels basketball. They also sponsor holiday visits and activities, taking Burnie, the mascot, to the Mascot Olympics every year in July to benefit the children’s Make a Wish foundation. In addition, Coach Riley has received many awards and considerable recognition for his charitable and public speaking contributions.

Note: In 2003, the Heat honored Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls by retiring his number 23 for his contributions to the NBA, although he never played for them.

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