Though the franchise has only been around since 1985, the Miami Heat have made quite a name for themselves in a short amount of time by NBA standards. While the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers will always be the premiere franchises in the league in terms of history and lore, the Miami Heat have certainly seen a surge over the course of the last 20 seasons, and these top 5 players certainly had something to do with it.

5. Shaquille O'Neal

While the Diesel was 32-years-old and slowly moving past his prime when the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Miami Heat, he proved that there was still gas left in the tank, and that he was still a force to be reckoned with in the paint.

This trade signaled the end of the Shaq/Kobe era, and, even without Kobe, Shaq found a new partner in crime in a fresh-faced Dwyane Wade. Shaq helped secure the Miami Heat's first title in 2006, and, while Dwyane Wade put on a show and single-handedly willed his team to win, Shaq was no slouch. Even though he took on a secondary role with the Heat to make room for Wade, he still put up some impressive numbers. For the 2005/2006 NBA season, the Diesel put up 20.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per contest at the age of 33.

4. Tim Hardaway

While he was not part of any championship runs for the Miami Heat, Tim Hardaway was one of the star players that kept things interesting in South Beach long before LeBron James took his talent there. Tim Hardaway was another player that saw earlier success elsewhere before he arrived in South Beach at the age of 29 in 1996. He had a killer crossover and provided veteran leadership in the locker room. He made the All-NBA first team in 1997, and followed that up with All-NBA second team honors in both 1998 and 1999.

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Together with Alonzo Mourning, they were a tandem not to be trifled with. During the 1995/1996 NBA season, Tim Hardaway averaged 17.2 points, 10.0 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per contest -- according to ESPN.

3. LeBron James

LeBron James shocked the NBA world when he decided to team-up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to make a formidable "Big 3" in Miami. While LeBron James is arguably one of the greatest players of all-time, this is only going by his body of work in a Miami Heat uniform -- which is still no small thing.

Along with bringing two more championships to South Beach, LeBron James had arguably one of the best individual seasons in NBA history in 2012, putting up 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. In that same year, he won both the regular season and NBA Finals MVP.

2. Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning was synonymous with the Miami Heat in the mid-90's and early 2000's. Before Shaq or Hassan Whiteside manned the paint, Alonzo Mourning locked it down. Alonzo Mourning would go on to win Defensive Player of the Year twice, and make 5 All-Star appearances.

While a rare kidney disease threatened to end his playing career, following a successful kidney transplant, he returned as a member of the Heat during their first title run in 2006 -- a well-deserved win. Alonzo Mourning finished his career with averages of 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks.

1. Dwyane Wade

One cannot discuss the upper echelon of Miami Heat royalty without mentioning Dwyane Wade. Wade spent almost his entire career with the Miami Heat before leaving for Chicago last season.

He was in a Miami Heat uniform for each of the franchise's 3 title runs, and is a franchise leader for the Heat in many statistical categories. It's safe to say that he is still synonymous with the Heat in the hearts and minds of fans, and the 3 championship banners that hang in the rafters would not be there without his contribution. Though his numbers dipped last season, his career averages sit at 23.3 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game.

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