The Miami Heat have long been a prime destination for free agents. Be it the glitz and glamour of this one-of-a-kind city, the blue waters and white sand of South Beach, or everything else in between, there’s no denying that when the Heat come calling, any free agent is likely to at least consider the possibility. Oh, and they’re a pretty good basketball team as well.
That being said, it comes as no surprise that Miami has signed more than a few big-name free agents in the past. There has been a fair amount, but we were able to round up five of the best in the team’s franchise history.
5. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler came to the Heat in the summer of 2019 as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. His signing came to the tune of $140.7 million for four years, and from what we’ve seen so far, he appears to be worth his weight in gold.
Averaging 20.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks this season, the five-time All-Star has been the centerpiece of a young Heat side that has been a pleasant surprise in the league. With the way Butler has been leading the Heat since his arrival, it’s not impossible to see him climb up in this list once it’s all said and done.
4. Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside, who had a resurgence since joining the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019 but dipped again upon joining the Sacramento Kings in 2020, did not exactly have a memorable last few years in Miami. He did not see eye to eye with team head coach Erik Spoelstra, which led to the 7-foot big man being relegated to a reduced role for the team.
However, Whiteside turned out to be an absolute steal for the Heat when they plucked him off the waiver wire after being waived by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2014. The team practically signed him for nothing, and he almost instantly took the league by storm. Whiteside’s defensive prowess was what propelled him to the spotlight (he once swatted 12 shots in his first season with the Heat), but he also emerged as a legitimate two-way threat for the team.
In the 2016-17 season, arguably his best campaign when he was the darling of several Heat news outlets, Whiteside averaged 17.0 points (on 55.7 percent shooting), a league-leading 14.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game.
3. Udonis Haslem
Udonis Haslem is by no means a superstar. However, he makes our list for the invaluable contributions he has delivered for the franchise since signing as an undrafted free agent with the Heat in 2003.
Since then, the 6-foot-8 forward/center has been part of all three championships in franchise history — once in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, and twice in back-to-back fashion in 2012 and 2013 with Miami’s famed Big 3.
Today, Haslem has become the veteran leader of the squad. He has played his entire NBA career with the Heat. It shouldn’t be long before the team stalwart decides to hang it up, so we best enjoy his presence while we still can.
2. Chris Bosh
Already a bona fide superstar during his time with the Toronto Raptors, Chris Bosh signed as a free agent with Miami in the summer of 2014 to form part of the Big 3. The 6-foot-11 big man willingly took a step back when he joined the Heat, becoming the third option behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. This resulted in two straight championships for the former fourth overall pick.
When James left Miami to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Bosh stepped into the role of the team’s main man. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by a serious blood clotting issue that would force him to prematurely retire in 2016 at just 31 years of age. He holds career averages with Miami of 18.0 points (on 49.6 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game.
1. LeBron James
LeBron James rocked the basketball world when he made “The Decision” in 2014. Cavs fans burned his jersey, claiming that his move to the Heat was the ultimate sign of betrayal. The former Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School standout became the league’s ultimate villain, but he would redeem himself in 2012 when he won his first ever career championship.
LeBron spent only four years in Miami before making a triumphant return to his beloved Cavs, but there’s no denying that it was an unforgettable stint in South Beach. During this span, he averaged 26.9 points (on 54.3 percent shooting), 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 1.2 triples per game. He led the way for what is easily the most successful era in Miami Heat history, with the team making four straight Finals appearances with James at the helm.