Miami Heat, established in 1988, is one of the four expansion franchises of National Basketball Association. It has since gone on to become one of the most highlighted franchises in the sport of basketball.
The team is a member of the South East Division in the Eastern Conference of the NBA and its home court is situated in the American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami. The team has collected many accolades and laurels including 5 conference titles and 11 Division titles.
The Heat has also proved its mettle in the NBA, winning on three occasions, i.e. in the year 2006, 2012 and 2013.
The draft of 2003 and first championship
It all started in 2003 when the team drafted in a Chicago kid - Dwyane Wade as the No.5 overall pick from Marquette. He took no time to showcase his premier talent with a stellar rookie season.
Then in summer of 2004, Pat Riley made a blockbuster trade and signed Shaquille O’Neal, who was one of the most dominant forces in the game at the time. The two stars formed an unstoppable force in the East and with a record of 59-23, took the team to the top. But because of the injury to Dwyane Wade in the conference finals, Miami lost to the defending Champions Detroit Pistons 4-3.
And then came the year of the ring. Pat Riley signed the veteran defensive guard Gary Payton from the Celtics to pair with Wade and O’Neal. Later in the season, due to the subpar performance of the team, Riley himself stepped in as the team Head Coach after relieving Stan Van Gundy of his duties.
The team went on to the conference finals and avenged their loss of the previous year by defeating the pistons 4-2. They then went on to the NBA finals for the first time and matched up against Dallas Mavericks.
After losing the first two games, the Heat went on to win the next four on the back of some brilliant performances from Dwyane Wade, who took away the Finals MVP honours along with the championship.
Post-championship, either due to injuries to Wade or wrong trade pieces, the team just could not make it make it big. One of the injury plagued seasons of Dwyane Wade saw Miami Heat hitting rock bottom with a league-worst 15-67 record in the 2007-2008 season.
Formation of The Big 3
Then there was the summer of 2010 when Lebron James and Chris Bosh became free agents and the top targets of every team that had aspirations of winning the championship. The Miami Heart entered the free agency with a cap space of $48 million at their disposal. They were able to lure the two superstars to join forces with Wade in Miami to start the Big 3 era.
Initially, there were some observable chemistry problems between the three superstars and their Head Coach Erik Spoelstra on the court. After a sluggish 9-8 start to the season, the team started to pull it off together as the season went on.
They reached the NBA final after defeating the young Chicago Bulls (4-1) in the conference finals and were set for a rematch against the Dallas Mavericks, who they faced in 2006. They would eventually lose that match 4-2, as they failed to contain Dirk Nowitzki.
Back to Back titles
In the 2012 season, the Heat improved their roster by adding Shane Battier to the mix. The team went on to win the conference finals again and met with a young Oklahoma City Thunder team showcasing prime talents like Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and James Harden.
But the destructive Juggernaut had all the answers for the Thunder as they went on to win the series with a 4-1 scoreline. Lebron James won his first NBA Championship and took away the finals MVP trophy.
In the 2013 season, the Heat added three-point sharpshooter Ray Allen to their roster along with Rashard Lewis. The team went on to win a franchise-best 66 games in the season en route to a third conference title, setting up a final clash against the San Antonio Spurs in the process.
In one of the most heart throbbing and breathtaking finals series’, the two teams kept exchanging wins. The Spurs were in a very good position to close the series in game 6 if not for Lebron James, who carried the team to a win on his shoulders.
The Heat then won game 7 of the series to repeat the success of the previous year and make it two NBA Championships in as many years for the Miami Heat. Lebron James was at it again in the 2013 season as he took away the finals MVP honours for the second consecutive year.
Back to struggle
In 2014, the team did win the conference finals for the fourth consecutive time and matched up once again against the Spurs in the final. But this time around the Spurs had the upper hand, winning the series with the help of a stellar performance from their rising star Kawhi Leonard.
After this heartbreaking loss, the Big 3 era came to an end with Lebron James opting out from Miami to join Ohio team Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving behind Wade, Bosh and a struggling Miami Heat roster.
*Updated as on October 20, 2015Published 20 Oct 2015, 16:09 IST