The first two jerseys to hang in the rafters at the American Airlines Arena in Miami did not belong to Heat players, but the next two that have been enshrined belong to the greats. On Wednesday, before the Heat's season opener at home against the (hated) New York Knicks, the franchise will retire Tim Hardaway's No. 10 jersey.
Hardaway, who played point guard for the Heat for five seasons from 1996-2001, took the Heat from middle-of-the-pack, to the class of the Atlantic division, by playing alongside Alonzo Mourning. With Wednesday's pregame ceremony, the two will be reunited, as Mourning's No. 33 is the other Heat jersey in the rafters.
Hardaway, while with the Heat, was another fan favorite, and over the course of his stint in Miami he became the franchise's all-time leader in assists, and three-point field goals. He also ranks fifth in points and steals, as well as tenth in games played.
What Heat fans will remember Hardaway most for was making opponents look silly on a regular basis with his killer crossover, affectionately referred to as the "UTEP Two-Step."
But Hardaway was more than just endless crossovers in a Heat uniform; he was the floor general that the franchise needed. In 1996-97, he was an MVP candidate, while leading the Heat to a franchise-best record.
Of course, there was also his role on the 2000 USA basketball team in the Sydney Olympics, which ended in a gold medal. Since then, he has played for a couple of other teams, but still resides in Miami, and sits a few rows behind the visiting bench during Heat home games, remaining as a presence in the city where has had so many highlights
But for all the high-points in Hardaway's career with the Heat, there were also some lows. He suffered many injuries with the Heat, and as a result, missed significant time during the playoffs for the Heat. Heat fans can only imagine what could have been had Hardaway remained healthy.
While the injuries were hardly anything Hardaway could do about, there was one dent in his image that could have been prevented. In 2007, Hardaway made his infamous homophobic remarks where he, among other things, said he hated gay people.
Hardaway has since issued multiple apologies for the incident, and while it is something that most fans will not forget, it is something that has been put in the past.
And while I don't agree with some of the things he has said and done outside of the confinements of a basketball arena, as a fan of the game of basketball, and a long-time fan of the Miami Heat, I congratulate him for having his jersey retired.
Fortunately for Hardaway, his enshrinement into Heat immortality on Wednesday is for his accomplishments on the court, and for what he meant to the team in a Heat uniform. And for those reasons, I will gladly show due respect to Hardaway the point guard.