The Miami Heat pay respect to old home with new jerseys

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 26: Tyler Johnson
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 26: Tyler Johnson /

The Miami Heat are celebrating their 30-year anniversary all season long.

In the 30 seasons since the Miami Heat began competing in the NBA, the team has become iconic for things like its keen eye for player development. However, the organization prides itself on presenting the total package: high quality basketball and top-tier entertainment, via the bright lights of nearby South Beach, and the championship pedigree.

Along with the 30th anniversary of Heat Basketball though, Miami is also celebrating another momentous occasion. December 29 marks the 18th anniversary of the final game played in the Heat’s original home, Miami Arena.

Adorned with a breezy pink script reading “Miami,” the Miami Arena was the premier locale for athletics in South Florida. Located on 1st Avenue (formerly 701 Arena Boulevard in the Overtown area of Miami), it was the home of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and University of Miami Hurricanes. The arena also played host to the 1990 NBA All-Star Game, as well as the 1991 WWF Royal Rumble.

The groundbreaking ceremony, led by Grammy award winner Julio Iglesias, christened the Heat’s first home, and ushered in a team owned by ex-Philadelphia 76ers coach Billy Cunningham.

At the time, the Miami Arena was the pride of South Florida athletics. As an expansion team, the Miami Heat were competing for relevance with the Charlotte Hornets in 1988, as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic in 1989.

"“I think our main competition at this point would be Minneapolis,” Cunningham said to the Orlando Sentinel. ”I would say the organizers in Orlando are about a year behind us in getting a building.”"

Surpassing the doubts of Magic President Pat Williams, the Miami Arena was finished by July 1988, in time for the Heat’s inaugural 1988-89 season.

Originally considered a state-of-the-art arena and a staple for sporting and entertainment events alike, the Miami Arena quickly fell out of recognition, in part to its middling 16,000 capacity. Whereas major stadiums like the United Center in Chicago or Madison Square Garden in New York City were equipped to handle upwards of 20,000 visitors, the Miami Arena had little to offer as basketball grew both in terms of national notoriety and as entertainment.

The attention garnered by the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry in the 1980s, the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons later that decade and a budding Michael Jordan, spawned the beginning of a basketball boom. A growing fast-paced, hand-check ridden game was poorly suited to the decrepit Miami Arena, and the Heat would suit up for their final contest in it on December 29, 1999, against their in-state rival, the Magic.

The 109-106 victory for the Heat was just one of 52 wins that season, a year in which they contended for the title behind efforts from Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. Moving about four blocks east to their current home, the AmericanAirlines Arena, the Miami Heat would eventually fall to the 50-win New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Though there are few remnants of the once-storied Miami Arena, which was fully demolished by October 2008, the Heat will pay their respects to the signature font emblazoned on the arena’s exterior. As part of the “City” Nike jersey collection, the Heat will use a white uniform, decorated with the same pink font and blue accents from the Miami Arena.

Next: Miami Heat: Is guard Dion Waiters really playing a team game?

The Heat will rock their old-school “Miami Vice” jerseys for the first time at home on January 25, against the Sacramento Kings.