Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James joined forces in the summer of 2010 and have led Miami to the NBA Finals twice, winning the 2012 title. Heat basketball, however, didn't start when LeBron took his talents to South Beach. The franchise has been around since 1985 and has won nine division titles and two championships. Here are our top five players in Heat history, based on what they accomplished in a Miami uniform.
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Shaq was 32 and past his dominant prime when the Heat swung a blockbuster trade with the Lakers for the massive center in 2004. But with something to prove after his ugly exit from LA, O'Neal finished second in MVP voting the next season, then helped Miami win its first championship in 2006. During those playoffs, he even embraced a secondary role, deferring to rising star Dwyane Wade. Shaq made a third straight All-Star team before wearing out his welcome with injuries and attitude problems, but his undeniable impact in Miami gives him the nod over longtime Heat mainstays Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice.
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Like Shaq, Hardaway made his mark with another franchise (the Golden State Warriors) before coming to Miami in 1996 at the age of 29. But with his devastating crossover dribble and confident leadership, he had three outstanding seasons for the Heat, making the All-NBA first team in 1997 and the second team in 1998 and '99. Along with Alonzo Mourning, he gave Miami arguably the league's best point guard-center tandem and turned the Heat into perennial contenders.
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There's no denying LeBron's impact on the Heat since The Decision in 2010. Not only has he made Miami the league's marquee franchise – the team everyone loves or hates – he delivered one of the best individual seasons in NBA history in 2012 with 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, a regular-season MVP, a Finals MVP and, of course, Miami's second championship. But let's wait a few years before declaring him the best player in team history. The guys ahead of him on this list were great in Miami for far more than two seasons.
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In his first seven seasons with the Heat from 1995-2002, there were few players as intimidating and intense as Mourning, who twice won Defensive Player of the Year and made five All-Star teams. A rare kidney disease nearly ended his career, but he made a comeback after a kidney transplant and helped the Heat win a title as Shaq's backup in 2006. Always a fan favorite in Miami, Mourning is still employed in the team's front office.
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Yes, Wade became Miami's second-best player as soon as LeBron joined the team. But his accomplishments as a Heat star have been second to none. Since being drafted by the team in 2003, Wade has made eight All-Star teams, won a scoring title and earned two championships. His performance in the 2006 Finals was among the best in NBA history. And though LeBron overshadowed him, Wade's play was critical during the 2012 title run. It's fair to say the Heat wouldn't have any rings without him.
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