Dolphins great Jason Taylor on Saturday became the 26th man immortalized as a Hall of Famer after having worn the uniform of, or coached, the Miami Dolphins, Heat, Marlins or Panthers. Taylor sailed in with the fifth-greatest percentage of his career spent in South Florida. The “Hall of Miami” club would be much more exclusive, but it includes even those who spent only a very small portion of their careers wearing a local team’s uniform.
The question for today:
Many former players for Miami’s Big Four pro teams will join that list now at 26 upon their retirement, of course. But what about current Dolphins, Marlins, Heat or Panthers?
We’ll tackle both categories and provide our Top 10 in each of the likeliest future Hall of Famers formerly or currently cheered by local fans. First, though, a complete list of those 26 men now enshrined, listed in order of the percentage of games played (or in two cases coached) in South Florida. Games include playoffs, and the four team leaders’ names are capitalized and underlined:
▪ DAN MARINO, Dolphins, 100.00 percent, 260 of 260, 1983-99; Bob Griese, Dolphins, 100.00, 173 of 173, 1967-80; Dwight Stephenson, Dolphins, 100.00, 125 of 125, 1980-87; Larry Little, Dolphins, 87.69, 171 of 195, 1969-80; Jason Taylor, Dolphins, 86.78, 210 of 242, 1997-07, ’09, ’11; Jim Langer, Dolphins, 85.89, 140 of 163, 1970-79; Coach Don Shula, Dolphins, 80.42, 423 of 526, 1970-95; Larry Csonka, Dolphins, 74.68, 118 of 158, 1968-74, ’79; ALONZO MOURNING, Heat, 72.35, 675 of 933, 1995-02, ’04-08; Nick Buoniconti, Dolphins, 52.55, 103 of 196, 1969-76; Coach Pat Riley, Heat, 42.04, 919 of 2,186, 1995-03, ’05-08; Paul Warfield, Dolphins, 40.57, 71 of 175, 1970-74; PAVEL BURE, Panthers, 29.63, 227 of 766, 1998-02; Shaquille O’Neal, Heat, 17.22, 245 of 1,423, 2004-08; Gary Payton, Heat, 11.69, 174 of 1,489, 2005-07; Junior Seau, Dolphins, 10.79, 30 of 278, 2003-05; PUDGE RODRIGUEZ, Marlins, 6.23, 161 of 2,583, 2003; Joe Nieuwendyk, Panthers, 5.65, 80 of 1,415, 2005-07; Ed Belfour, Panthers, 5.16, 58 of 1,124, 2006-07; Andre Dawson, Marlins, 4.58, 121 of 2,642, 1995-96; Thurman Thomas, Dolphins, 4.43, 9 of 203, 2000; Tim Raines, Marlins, 3.86, 98 of 2,536, 2002; Dino Ciccarelli, Panthers, 3.06, 42 of 1,373, 1997-99; Igor Larionov, Panthers, 2.43, 26 of 1,071, 2000-01; Cris Carter, Dolphins, 2.02, 5 of 248, 2002; Mike Piazza, Marlins, 0.26, 5 of 1,944, 1998.
▪ Now, the players we once had who are the most likely to be headed for their sport’s highest honor, led by the Heat’s erstwhile Big 3, by the Panthers’ recently departed ageless wonder, and by the subject of perhaps the worst trade in Marlins history:
1. LeBron James (29.6 percent of games played were for Heat) — Our Hall odds: 100 percent. But only because the percents don’t go any higher.
2. Jaromir Jagr (9.7 percent for Panthers) — Hall odds: 100 percent. Every bit the certainty LeBron is as NHL’s No. 3 all-time goal scorer.
3. Miguel Cabrera (32.8 percent for Marlins) — Hall odds: 100 percent. Sixth-highest average (.318) of anyone with 450-plus homers.
4. Dwyane Wade (93.9 percent for Heat) — Hall odds: 100 percent. Not being sentimental here. D-Wade’s a first-ballot lock.
5. Chris Bosh (47.0 percent for Heat) — Hall odds: 97 percent. Can’t penalize him because blood clots truncated his career late.
6. Ray Allen (13.3 percent for Heat) — Hall odds: 95 percent. Career leader in three-point field goals should sail right in.
7. Brandon Marshall (18.0 percent for Dolphins) — Hall odds: 60 percent. Has 941 catches for 12,061 yards, 82 TDs, but Canton’s tough for receivers. Could use a couple of more big seasons.
8. Zach Thomas (91.7 percent for Dolphins) — Hall odds: 45 percent. Still a fair chance he’ll be appreciated in time. Fast fact: Zach made more Pro Bowls (7-6) than newly inducted Taylor.
9. Gary Sheffield (21.9 percent for Marlins) — Hall odds: 40 percent. Should be in already, with 509 home runs, a .907 career OPS and more RBI than 126 who are now in Cooperstown.
10. (tie) Tim Hardaway (44.0 percent for Heat), Bob Kuechenberg (100 percent for Dolphins) and The Marks Brothers (Duper 100 percent for Dolphins, Clayton 89.4 percent) — Hall odds: 20 percent. Hoops Hall an easier ticket, which helps Hardaway. The overlooked guard Kuechenberg played more Dolphins seasons than anyone but Marino, and played and started more games than all but Marino and Taylor. The inseparable Duper and Clayton combined for 1,093 catches and 143 TDs as Marino’s best buds, but wideouts have toughest path to Canton.
Thomas on the above list strikes an especially poignant note this weekend. Once, there was a hope and belief the two longtime teammates and brothers-in-law might enter Canton together. Then it became apparent Thomas was not held in the same historical regard. Now, this weekend, Thomas did not attend his former close friend’s Hall induction ceremony because of a family related estrangement. Taylor and wife Katina (Zach’s sister) divorced in 2015, and she is now suing Taylor related to alimony payment.
▪ On a brighter note, the current South Florida pro sports figures most likely to someday get the honor Taylor earned on Saturday:
1. Ichiro Suzuki (14.8 percent for Marlins) — Hall odds: 100 percent. Baseball-reference.com’s Hall of Fame Monitor calls a 100 rating a “good possibility” for induction and 130 a “virtual cinch” for Cooperstown. Ichiro is at 234.
2. Ndamukong Suh (29.2 percent for Dolphins) — Hall odds: 75 percent. Five Pro Bowls, 47 sacks in seven seasons. And only 12 pure defensive tackles are in Canton, favoring his odds.
3. Coach Erik Spoelstra (100 percent for Heat) — Hall odds: 60 percent. Already 38th with 442 wins, and seventh among those 38 with a .609 win percentage. Might take a third championship but at 47 he’s just entering his coaching prime.
4. Roberto Luongo (48.3 percent for Panthers) — Hall odds: 55 percent. Goaltender is hurt by zero Stanley Cup or Vezina Trophy wins. But second all-time in saves and fifth in games won gets you noticed.
5. Giancarlo Stanton (100 percent for Marlins) — Hall odds: 40 percent. Yes, 241 homers at age 27 is a big start, but it’ll take a lot more big years for Stanton’s chances to go from possible to probable. It’s tougher on sluggers.
6. Cam Wake (100 percent for Dolphins) — Hall odds: 25 percent. With 81 1/2 sacks at age 35, won’t have the career total Canton likes. But his story (coming to NFL at age 27 out of Canada, coming back from Achilles surgery) could resonate with voters.
7. Jarvis Landry (100 percent for Dolphins) — Hall odds: 15 percent. See above. Has club-record 288 catches in three seasons, but also a modest 10.6-yard average and 13 total TD receptions.
8. (tie) Mike Pouncey (100 percent for Dolphins), Hassan Whiteside (91.6 percent for Heat) and Sasha Barkov (100 percent for Panthers) — Hall odds: 10 percent. Pouncey has three Pro Bowls at a speciality position (center) but can’t stay healthy. Whiteside has all the physical gifts but already is 28. Barkov is still a baby at 21, but oh the long-term potential!
The above list is missing someone, of course. A name glaring for its absence. Jose Fernandez, the late Marlins ace, would be on it, likely ranked second or third, had a boating tragedy last September not erased his future.
Perhaps not since Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro in the late 1960s had a rising sports star of such promise seen a potentially Hall of Fame-headed career end so suddenly in tragedy.
All of the ways it can deny you is a part of any Hall of Fame’s mystique, and what makes the entrants so grateful they have had the life — not just the career — that allows it.