In 1995, the Miami Heat dominated NBA All-Star Saturday Night. Pre-LeBron James era, that Saturday night became the turning point for the franchise.
In the first seven years of the Heat’s existence, the franchise had one .500+ season and two first round playoff losses to its credit. Rony Seikaly was the face of the franchise and it wasn’t cool to like them, unless you appreciated Jon Sundvold’s touch from deep (led the league in three point percentage in 1988-89) or Sherman Douglas’ propensity to shoot first, which was pretty rare for a PG at the time.
Then, the 1995 NBA All-Star game happened in Phoenix. Sharpshooting forward Glen Rice won the three-point shootout and “Baby Jordan” Harold Miner demolished his foes in the Slam Dunk Contest. Suddenly, it was cool to wear a Heat uniform.
Rice’s three-point victory is perhaps most impressive and I would argue the field he beat is perhaps the best combination of shooters ever assembled in the history of the contest. There were three-point shooters of all shapes and varieties, all kinds of specialties. Just look at this list- Steve Kerr, Nick Anderson, Dana Barros, Dan Majerle, Scott Burrell, “The Rifleman” Chuck Person, even Reggie Miller.
But Glen Rice was not intimidated. At that time he was already the all-time leading scorer in Heat history. Ultimately, Rice would best Miller in the finals.
The dunk contest was equally exciting with Harold Miner winning his second dunk championship in three years. While the lineup of dunkers wasn’t as impressive as the three-point contest (Tim Perry, Antonio Harvey, Jamie Watson, Tony Dumas) the “main event” between Miner and defending champ Isaiah “JR” Rider was what everyone wanted to see.
When the dust settled, Rice and Miner were champs and it really legitimized the Heat as an NBA franchise, no longer just a red-headed step child of expansion. From that weekend on, the Heat signed Pat Riley as head coach and made the playoffs the next six seasons.
If it wasn’t for that All-Star Saturday Night 18 years ago, the Heat wouldn’t be the franchise they are today.