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The Miami Heat franchise dates back to 1988, when the National Basketball Association announced that they would be adding four teams to the league between 1988 and 1989. Miami was one of the four cities that were awarded a team, and they were named after the warm South Florida climate. Despite the name, the Heat did not get off to a hot start in their first few seasons in the NBA. The first four seasons saw the team increase their win total each season, capped by a 38-win season in 1992 that led to the franchise's first playoff appearance. They were ultimately swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the eventual NBA Finals champion Chicago Bulls.
The 1996 season began a new era of basketball success for Miami when they hired future Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. His experience helped to reshape the Heat roster with additions including Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. In only his second season at the controls, Riley helped to lead Miami to a 61-21 record and their first Atlantic Division title. Over the next four seasons, the Heat did not finish with anything below a .610 winning percentage. Although they did not make an appearance in the NBA Finals in any of those seasons, they were one of the most formidable opponents in the league.
After years of success but no championships, the Heat began to retool their roster to have a better chance at an NBA title. But following career-altering injuries to Alonzo Mourning and Eddie Jones, and the departure of Tim Hardaway, Miami found itself back in the uncomfortable position of losing basketball games. Following the 2003 season, the team drafted talented guard Dwyane Wade in the NBA Draft. Along with players like Caron Butler and Lamar Odom, Wade's stellar play helped turn around the franchise that had only won 25 games the previous season. Miami finished 42-40, and fans could feel that this Heat team was the sign of big things to come.
Not many Heat fans could have guessed what was up Pat Riley's sleeve the following off-season. In a deal with the LA Lakers, the Heat traded Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and others in exchange for larger-than-life superstar Shaquille O'Neal. The lovable big man immediately changed the culture in South Beach, bringing with him three NBA titles. In his second season on the roster, O'Neal and Wade were able to deliver on that promise, beating the Dallas Mavericks in six games and winning the NBA Championship for the first time in team history.
After O'Neal left Miami, the Heat entered a rebuilding mode trying put together the pieces to make another run at a championship. After a few years of mediocrity, the team brought was able to lure the two biggest free agents available to Miami - LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The two, along with Dwyane Wade, instantly made the Heat the team the beat in NBA. In just a few seasons together, the "Big 3" has already brought home two more championships to South Beach and are primed to add to that total.