This weekend featured two big events for the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade surpassed 20,000 career points and President and former Head Coach Pat Riley celebrated his 71st birthday. Two of the greatest members of the Heat organization celebrated to huge events, and of course it would happen the same weekend.
Pat Riley can be credited to bringing the Heat out of the cellars of the league and into prominence when he took over just before the 1995-96 season. He immediately changed the culture to his tough and rugged style he used in New York. He got a cornerstone for that style when he made the move to bring in Alonzo Mourning as the anchor for the up and coming defensive-minded team. In January of ’96, he traded for Tim Hardaway, and BAM, they were off and running. The next few years, they contended for titles with the best of them, but just had some bad luck in the process. After some down years in the early 2000’s, Riley made the move from the sideline to the front office, and and a bold move by drafting Dwyane Wade in the 2003 Draft, and Wade immediately became the new building block for the franchise. A year later, he made one of the biggest trades in NBA history by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers. Again, the Heat were contenders, but a few more moves had to be made to get them over the hump. One month into the 2006 season, then coach Stan Van Gundy stepped down, and of course, Riley came to the rescue and led the Heat to their first ever title in 2006. He will always be remembered as the architect for the Heat who brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh against all odds and constantly putting together winning teams.
Wade can be thought of as the Heat’s favorite son along with Udonis Haslem and Alonzo Mourning. Playing in Miami his whole career so far, Wade has been through everything the Heat have. From their title win in 2006, to the 15-win season in 2008, to the four straight finals trips, and now to the rebuilding after Lebron’s departure. He has carried the team before (look at their roster from 2008-2010, it was pretty sad) and has been the secondary man to both Shaq and Lebron. But through all those things, Wade has been a perennial all-star, one of the best slashing guards, the best shot-blocking guard, and one of the best scorers in the league. Let’s also not forget that he led the league in scoring in 2008-2009 and he only made 88 threes (would love to see guys like Curry and Harden try to do that today). Today, Wade is the old veteran on his team that relies on ball fakes and intelligence to score from the perimeter and paint. He still does not take many threes, but he doesn’t need to. He will without a doubt have his jersey in the rafters of the AAA when he retires and is pretty much a lock for the Hall of Fame.
So on behalf of the High Flyers and all Heat fans, I would like to wish the great Pat Riley a happy birthday and congratulations to Dwyane Wade on 20,000 career points!