Miami Heat among the best huggers — yes, huggers — in the NBA

The Miami Heat’s LeBron James (6) hugs teammate Dwyane Wade (3) during Game 5 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday in Miami on June 21, 2012. (Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

Every emotion that needs expressing at this time on the NBA calendar can be communicated with a hug.

Maybe it’s the sweet embrace after a nine-month journey to the championship. Or a moment to share grief after an 82-game marathon derails. One might say, “I’ll see you next year,” while impending free agents may opt for the open-ended, “Until we meet again.”

Either way, it’s peak hugging season in the basketball world. And that motivated Fox Sports’ Dan Carson to break down his entirely subjective, but ultimately enjoyable top 20 list of the league’s best hugs.

“Some are congratulatory, others are conciliatory,” Carson explained. Some are awkward and for no reason at all. But they are all Good Hugs.”

And a lot of them are Heat-related hugs, some more obviously than others.

Dwyane Wade makes two appearances — one of seven players with multiple entries. His first is a pre-Big-Three hug of LeBron James, a twosome that went on to power Miami to four straight NBA Finals and a pair of championships. In the other, Wade shared a moment with Kobe Bryant at the 2006 All-Star Game.

James shows up again with his crying embrace of Kevin Love after the two helped the Cleveland Cavaliers become the first team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in last year’s Finals.

Former Heat champions Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and current assistant coach Juwan Howard also made the cut in separate photos. For fans of obscure Miami references, you’ll enjoy the random sightings of Smush Parker and John Wallace, who played 46 combined games for the Heat.

Finally, there’s an image of Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston celebrating the New York Knicks’ Game 5 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals. How does that pertain to Miami, you ask? Well, the eighth-seeded Knicks had dispatched the top-seeded Heat in five games two rounds earlier.

That probably wasn’t a real active hugging time for the South Florida hoops community.

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