With the Heat just days away from the start of their 30th NBA season, now is a good time to take a closer look at the players who helped make this organization what it is today. Whether it’s based off of pure talent, off-the-court impact or just longevity, there are a lot of names that helped the Heat over their first 29 seasons of existence.
The Miami Heat will celebrate their 30th season in the NBA this year. Miami entered the league in 1988, and after few rough years, it has been one of the more successful franchises in the NBA, as one of just five teams to win at least three titles over the last 30 years.
In celebration of the Heat’s first three decades we bring you 30 memorable moments in team history:
MIAMI – Alonzo Mourning had a discussion with his foster mother nearly 30 years ago similar to ones that likely have taken place all over the country in the last few months.
College freshmen, most still teenagers, anxious to leave school and enter the big-boy world of the NBA. For Mourning, that talk with Fannie Threet resulted in the skinny 6-foot-10 center returning to Georgetown for three more years to receive an education. … on the court as much as off.
“I was determined to stay four years and that was because of my surroundings,” Mourning told the Palm Beach Post. “(Then Georgetown coach) John Thompson, the track record the university had with graduation rates. My foster mom, who was a huge influence in my life.”
Three decades later many of those discussions end with parents or guardians giving their children their blessings to forgo the rest of their college careers and enter the NBA.
Ready or not.
Most projections have freshmen being taken with nine of the top 10 picks in Thursday’s NBA draft. Some have all 10 being freshmen before Frank Ntilikina, the first international player expected to come off the board, is selected. CBS Sports’ big board has 12 of the top 16 players being freshmen.
Mourning, 47, believes that decision he made shortly after his 19th birthday is a big reason why he has been such a success on and off the court. Mourning played three more seasons at Georgetown in which he was a two-time All-American and the 1991-92 Big East Player of the Year. Three years ago Mourning was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and he remains a part of the Heat organization as a vice-president.
Of course, what choice did he have being raised by a school teacher?
“It was always about education, education,” Mourning said about Threet, who died in 2013 at the age of 98. “I made that the No. 1 priority.”
“I was ready, physically, mentally, I was ready,” he said. “Same thing with Tim Duncan. He stayed (at Wake Forest) four years and as soon as he came in, boom, immediate impact. You’re not going to sit here and tell me that those four years don’t make a huge difference in the development.”
And Mourning now has proof.
Fewer and fewer players are making an instant impact out of college and the proof is in the 2016 draft, considered one of the worst in recent memory.
With top overall pick Ben Simmons missing the season because of a foot injury, the player who has emerged as the favorite for rookie of the year is Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, who was selected in the second round, 36th overall.
Brogdon played four years at Virginia.
The rest of the draft in which the first three picks and five of the top eight were freshmen, and 10 freshmen were selected in the first round is filled with players with potential but beyond the top three picks of Simmons, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown, even that is limited.
“You look at these young guys, they really don’t blossom until after that third year in the league,” Mourning said. “Three years they could have been in college.
“Now more than ever they look at the years of earning. ‘I can earn these three years right here even though I’m developing I’m still earning. I’m not earning while I’m in school. I’m earning money for the NCAA but I’m not earning money for myself, my family.’”
Players who enter the league around the age of 20 have an opportunity to sign up to three max or big-money deals after their rookie contract. Mourning entered the league at 22 and was in position for two big deals. After signing a seven-year, $105-million contract the Heat in 1996, Mourning was diagnosed with a kidney disorder that affected his next deal, which was for $22 million over four years.
“They look at those three years as an earning potential and how quick they can get to a second contract and then they have room to get to a third,” Mourning said. “I never really got to a third because I came in late.”
MIAMI – The 1992 draft will be will always stand out for having two future Hall of Famers – centers Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning – taken with the first two picks, one of just three times this has happened in league history.
But on the 25th anniversary of that draft, it also will be remembered as one with a very heavy Miami Heat presence, despite the team having just one first round pick.
Of the top nine players selected in that draft, eight played for the Heat, including the top five picks.
O’Neal, the No. 1 pick, came to Miami in the summer of 2004 and Mourning, No. 2, was the centerpiece of Pat Riley’s first blockbuster transaction, joining the Heat from Charlotte in 1995. The two then helped bring Miami its first NBA title in 2006.
Power forward Christian Laettner (No. 3 overall) was signed in 2004 and was a teammate of both Shaq’s and Mourning’s from March of 2005 (when Mourning rejoined the Heat) through the playoffs that season, shooting guard Jim Jackson (No. 4) signed in 2001 and played one season in Miami and forward LaPhonso Ellis also signed in 2001 and played two years with the Heat.
The No. 6 pick, Tom Gugliotta, managed to play 13 years – and for seven teams – without ever wearing a Heat uniform.
The list then picks up with the next three picks making a stop in South Florida. Small forward Walt Williams (No. 7) spend the 1995-96 season with the Heat after being acquired from Golden State, shooting guard Todd Day (No. 8) was signed in 1997 and played one season in Miami and forward Clarence Weatherspoon (No. 9) came to Miami as a free agent in 1999 and remained for two years.
Mourning, who is tied to the Heat more than another other player from the class, was a teammate at one time of all seven players.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” he said. “It is amazing.”
The list, though, goes on. Miami selected Harold Minor with the No. 12 pick that year. Minor, though, was burdened by the unfortunate nickname of ‘Baby Jordan’ because his style reminded some of Michael Jordan’s, and he lasted just four seasons in the league but not before twice winning the Slam Dunk contest.
One other first rounder played for Miami as Don MacLean, the 19th pick, saw action in just eight games in 2000-01. But three second-picks wore a Heat uniform and made solid contributions.
P.J. Brown (No. 29) signed as a free agent in 1996 and after four years in Miami remains one of the top power forwards in franchise history. Center Matt Geiger was taken by the Heat with 42nd pick that year and played three seasons in Miami and Sasha Danilovic, the 43rd pick, was acquired from Golden State in 1995 and spent two seasons as the Heat’s primary starting shooting guard.
In all, 13 players from that draft wore at Heat uniform and Mourning was a teammate of 10 of them and traded for one of them, coming came to Miami in the deal that included Geiger.