For the second time in three years, the Miami Heat are just a few wins away from an NBA championship. The title would be Miami’s fourth in franchise history. The three others came between 2006 and 2013.
So, with the Heat’s title chances still alive, we decided to rank their three championships. We based the criteria on each path their teams took to the Larry O’Brien Trophy and what the titles meant for the franchise’s overall legacy.
Without further ado, here’s a ranking of the Heat’s three championships.
3. LeBron James’ first title in 2012
This championship is hard to rank. It’s meaningful in regards to Heat franchise history and even NBA history, but Miami’s path in 2012 wasn’t as difficult as the next one on this list.
The title was the first of the Big Three era. It was also the first of LeBron James’ four titles. The Heat lost in the Finals the year before but came back and went 46-20 in a lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Miami then beat the New York Knicks 4-1 in the first round and the Indiana Pacers 4-2 in the conference semifinals.
The Boston Celtics, though, gave them their most significant challenge in the Eastern Conference Finals, taking a 3-2 lead after five games. But James scored 45 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in a Game 6 win before dropping 31 points and 12 rebounds in Game 7. The Heat won the series 4-3.
James and company then had a much easier time in the NBA Finals. They faced Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the title round but won the series in five games. James won Finals MVP with 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game, while Dwyane Wade averaged 22.6 points and Chris Bosh 14.6.
2. The Big Three’s second championship in 2013
There’s a belief out there that only real championship teams repeat. Whether you believe that or not, the Heat did just that in 2013. This title helped solidify the Big Three’s legacy as an all-time great trio, but it also provided them with difficult obstacles.
The Heat had a terrific regular season in 2012-13, going 66-16. They then swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and beat the Chicago Bulls 4-1 in the conference semifinals.
However, Paul George and the Indiana Pacers gave them everything they had in the conference finals, taking them to seven games.
Miami claimed a 3-2 lead after Game 5, but Indiana won 91-77 in Game 6 to tie things 3-3. James’ 32 points in Game 7 then clinched a third straight Finals appearance for the Heat.
Their NBA Finals matchup wasn’t any easier, either. The Heat faced the San Antonio Spurs, who had won four championships between 1999 and 2007. The Spurs took a 3-2 series lead and led 94-89 with 21 seconds left in Game 6. But a James three-pointer and a clutch Ray Allen three with five seconds left forced overtime, and the Heat eventually won 103-100. Miami then came out on top 95-88 in Game 7 to win its second straight championship.
James earned his second Finals MVP in the series with 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game. Wade also averaged 19.6 points.
1. Miami’s first-ever NBA championship in 2006
How can you not rank the franchise’s first-ever title at No. 1? The Heat lost in the conference finals with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal in 2005 but came back and reached the NBA Finals in 2006.
Their path to the top wasn’t easy. Miami got off to a slow start in 2005-06, going 11-10 through its first 21 games. Head coach Stan Van Gundy then resigned, and Pat Riley returned to coaching the team. The Heat then went 41-20 under Riley and entered the playoffs at 52-30.
Wade and company beat the Bulls 4-2 in the first round and the New Jersey Nets 4-1 in the conference semifinals. The Heat then faced the reigning Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons in the conference finals but won in six games.
In the NBA Finals, Miami had to play the 60-22 Dallas Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas took a 2-0 lead in the series and looked ready to win the whole thing. But Wade had something to say about that, averaging 39.3 points and 8.3 rebounds between Games 3 and 6 to lead the Heat to a 4-2 series win and an NBA championship.
Wade won Finals MVP with 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. O’Neal added 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds to win his fourth title.
Now, the real question is whether the Heat can soon add another championship to this list. It might be time for title No. 4.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference