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Arena: FTX Arena
Coach: Erik Spoelstra


Miami Heat

Miami Heat Summary

Of the four teams that came into the NBA in the late 1980s, the Miami Heat have proven to be the most successful. Through solid drafting and a few shrewd trades and free-agent signings, the Heat have won three NBA titles since coming into the league for the 1988-89 season and appeared in the NBA Finals three other times.

The latest incarnation of the team is just two seasons removed from the 2020 NBA Finals, which it lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Orlando bubble. Still, with players like Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro now joined by former NBA champions PJ Tucker and Kyle Lowry, the Heat should be in contention for another trip to the championship series for a few more years at least.

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Miami Heat History

The Miami Heat joined the NBA for the 1988-89 season along with the Charlotte Hornets as the league expanded by two teams in two straight seasons. The team struggled in its early years, making the playoffs just three times in eight seasons and winning just two playoff games in total in those appearances.

Things started to turn prior to the 1995-96 campaign, as Pat Riley was brought aboard as the head coach and the acquisitions of players like Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway soon followed. Riley’s second season brought a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, which the Heat lost to the Chicago Bulls, and Miami made the postseason in six straight seasons starting in 1995-96.

The Heat bottomed out with a 25-win season in 2002-03, leading Riley to relinquish head coaching duties while staying in the team’s front office, but it also gave the team the No. 5 pick in the stacked 2003 NBA Draft. With that selection, the team’s fortunes changed, as it took Dwyane Wade from Marquette, who made an immediate impact on the squad.

Wade led the Heat back to the postseason and a first-round victory, then was teamed with Shaquille O’Neal, who Riley traded for from the Los Angeles Lakers. With Riley back as the head coach in 2005-06, Miami advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time, defeating the Dallas Mavericks for the franchise’s first championship.

Three first-round losses in the next four seasons followed, but the summer of 2010 changed the team’s fortunes again. Riley convinced prized free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join the Heat, teaming with Wade to form a Big Three that looked poised to rule the NBA for years to come. The team advanced to the NBA Finals in their first season together but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

James won the league MVP in 2011-12, and Miami got back to the Finals, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder for their second NBA title. A come-from-behind victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals brought the Heat a second straight league championship, though the Spurs would get some revenge by beating Miami in the 2014 NBA Finals.

James left as a free agent in the 2014 offseason, and Bosh was sidelined with blood clots during the 2014-15 campaign, leading to the Heat missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Bosh’s career was derailed by his blood clot problems, Wade left as a free agent and Miami struggled to make any impact in the postseason for five years.

The Heat acquired Jimmy Butler prior to the 2019-20 campaign, and he helped the team to another NBA Finals appearance that season, as Miami fell to the Lakers in six games. The team continues to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, with a young core that should be together for a while.

Championships Won by the Miami Heat

The Heat reached the NBA Finals for the first time in the 2005-06 season but fell behind 2-0 in the championship series to the Dallas Mavericks. Dwyane Wade led the charge as Miami came back and won four straight games, clinching its first NBA title on the Mavericks’ home floor in Game 6. Wade was named the Finals MVP in just his third NBA season.

The Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh had promised multiple titles at their introductory press conference as members of the same team, and they delivered the first of those in the 2012 NBA Finals. After losing to Dallas in the 2011 championship series, the Heat were determined not to lose a second straight time, rallying from a 1-0 series deficit by winning four straight for the second title in franchise history. James was named the Finals MVP.

The next season, it looked like the Heat might lose the championship in the final series again. Down 3-2 in the series and by five points with 28.2 seconds remaining in Game 6, Miami rallied to force overtime and tie the series at three wins apiece, then won the title in a Game 7 classic. James averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.3 steals to win the Finals MVP for the second straight season.

Miami has won the Eastern Conference crown three other times in franchise history (2011, 2014 and 2020). The Heat also have 14 division titles (four Atlantic, 10 Southeast), including seven in the last 11 seasons.

Important Team Events

Things have not been the same with the Heat since they hired Pat Riley as general manager and head coach in 1995. His arrival brought immediate legitimacy to the team, and he made personnel moves like bringing in Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway to make Miami a title contender. Riley is still a part of the team in a management capacity, making moves to help the franchise stay in title contention.

The drafting of Dwyane Wade in 2003 brought the Heat one of their greatest players, as Wade proved to be a clutch scorer and leader for three NBA title teams. Wade finished his career as the team’s leading scorer and the face of the franchise through two championship eras.

Wade was joined by a pair of fellow 2003 first-round draft picks when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Heat in the summer of 2010, forming a “super team” that ran roughshod over the league for four seasons. Four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA titles resulted in the moves to bring the trio together, the best run of success in franchise history.

Top Players

One of the constants of the Miami Heat’s success has been the presence of Dwyane Wade. The guard was Finals MVP for the Heat’s first title in 2006, then played a co-leader role with LeBron James through four straight Finals appearances and two titles in the 2010s. Wade finished his Heat career as the all-time franchise leader in games, minutes, points, assists and steals.

Though he only played four seasons for Miami, James’ time with the Heat was at such a high level, he deserves to be included in the list of top players in franchise history. James helped the team to four NBA Finals appearances, winning Finals MVP honors for both of the Heat’s wins in the championship series in that span. James also won two regular-season MVP awards while with the Heat, and his arrival and departure had major effects on the team’s competitiveness.

Alonzo Mourning spent 10-plus seasons with the Heat over two separate stints, finishing his career as the team’s all-time leader in blocked shots. Mourning made his mark on the defensive end, winning Defensive Player of the Year twice during his first run with the team. Pat Riley always stressed defense on his teams, and Mourning was the center of some solid Heat defensive teams.

Top Coaches

When the Heat brought Pat Riley in as head coach in 1995, the team immediately became a title contender. Riley had already won titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he was able to be on the bench for the first NBA title in franchise history for Miami. He was also in the front office when the moves to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the team were executed, showing his influence on the team.

Of all of the men who have coached the Heat, Erik Spoelstra has the most regular-season wins and NBA titles. A former video coordinator for the team, Spoelstra moved his way up to become head coach of the team in 2008 when Riley stepped down. The team has made five NBA Finals appearances under Spoelstra, who entered the 2021-22 season with 607 regular-season wins and a .594 winning percentage in the postseason.

Stan Van Gundy had the highest winning percentage among all the men who have coached the Miami Heat, getting a victory in 60.5 percent of the regular-season games he coached. Van Gundy took Miami to the postseason in both of his full seasons with the team, including a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2005 that ended with a seven-game series loss to the Detroit Pistons.

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Miami Heat FAQs

Dwyane Wade scored 21,556 points during his 14-plus seasons with the Heat, the most in franchise history.

LeBron James won the NBA MVP award in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, the only time a Heat player has won the honor.

The Heat have won three NBA titles, coming out on top in the NBA Finals in 2006, 2012 and 2013.

Erik Spoelstra entered the 2021-22 campaign with 607 regular-season wins as head coach of the Heat, the most in franchise history.

The Heat have never had the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, with the drafting of Michael Beasley at No. 2 in 2008 being the franchise’s highest selection.

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