Greg Cote

Can you list Miami’s top sports figures? It's tough, but here's our list

The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade is back after 1 1/2 seasons away and still on top as the franchise’s and region’s most beloved player, even at age 36.
The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade is back after 1 1/2 seasons away and still on top as the franchise’s and region’s most beloved player, even at age 36. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Start an argument and drive yourself crazy in one undertaking. Try to rank Miami/South Florida’s current Top 25 sports figures. I first did this in 2015 and offer an updated ranking here because much has changed in two-plus years.

Five of my top seven on the ’15 list have since departed, led by the traded Giancarlo Stanton, but plenty of new notables have arrived to fill in.

Our list includes active athletes, coaches, owners and top-ranking executives from our pro and college teams, and the new list also includes active individual-sport stars who reside full time in South Florida.

(Sorry, Tiger Woods, but your Jupiter Island home is in Martin County, just north of Palm Beach, where SoFla ends).

I know, I know. It’s impossible, this list. It is apples and oranges. How do you compare football players with basketball coaches? Tennis stars with team owners?

Relax. It’s just for fun, folks. No animals were harmed in the making of this list.

Our criteria? Star power. Biggest names. Accomplishment. Stature. Prominence beyond Greater Miami. Celebrity. Overall impact. All went into the blender.

You decide who you think I ranked too high or too low or left out.

Now, can I get a little drumroll, please?

Our Miami/South Florida 2018 Top 25 Sports Figures:

▪ 1. Dwyane Wade, Heat guard: Back after 1 1/2 seasons away and still on top as the franchise’s and region’s most beloved player, even at age 36.

▪ 2. Serena Williams, tennis star: Back from maternity leave in this month’s Miami Open, Serena, from Palm Beach Gardens, is one major win from tying the all-time record.

▪ 3. Pat Riley, Heat president: The godfather made the franchise nationally relevant and, turning 72 this month, is still firing on all cylinders.

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Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter. You can like his salary-dump direction or not, but admit the all-time Yankees great brings national attention and star power to town. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

▪ 4. Derek Jeter, Marlins CEO/part owner: You can like his salary-dump direction or not, but admit the all-time Yankees great brings national attention and star power to town.

▪ 5. Jarvis Landry, Dolphins receiver: Might not be a Dolphin for long, but until then, a prolific producer with 400 catches in four seasons.

▪ 6. Mark Richt, Hurricanes football coach: He’s 19-7 in two seasons, was 2017 ACC Coach of the Year, and has Canes fans buoyant with excitement.

▪ 7. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins defensive tackle: Fins always seem to have lots of problems and holes, but this behemoth is never one of them.

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The Miami Dolphins always seem to have lots of problems and holes, but this behemoth, Ndamukong Suh, is never one of them. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

▪ 8. Erik Spoelstra, Heat coach: Unless it’s Gregg Popovich (maybe), there might not be a better coach in the NBA.

▪ 9. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins quarterback: A starting QB for a city’s flagship team should rank higher, but a 37-40 career record and season lost to injury hold him back.

▪ 10. Goran Dragic, Heat guard: Leads team in scoring and assists in season that marked his first All-Star Game appearance.

▪ 11. David Beckham, Miami MLS part owner/front man: Major League Soccer is expanding to Miami because of Beckham, whose celebrity is international. (This might be low for Becks, but the team is still two years from playing.)

▪ 12. Caroline Wozniacki, tennis star: Huh? What? Who? Hey, the resident of Miami just won the Australian Open and happens to be the world’s No. 2-ranked women’s player.

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Caroline Wozniacki. The resident of Miami just won the Australian Open and happens to be the world’s No. 2-ranked women’s player. Pedro Portal El Nuevo Herald

▪ 13. Adam Gase, Dolphins coach: A 6-10 season followed his 10-6 debut, meaning Gase will be feeling some heat for the first time in Year 3.

▪ 14. Cameron Wake, Dolphins defensive end: Age 36 but still going strong, and could top 100 career sacks this coming season.

▪ 15. Roberto Luongo, Panthers goaltender: Second in NHL career saves and fourth in wins, and his return from injury has sparked the current surge.

▪ 16. Don Mattingly, Marlins manager: New owners of the fire-sale Fish were smart to let the capable Mattingly survive the makeover and purge.

▪ 17. Aleksander Barkov, Panthers center: Only 22, “Sasha” was Cats’ lone All-Star this season and is at the forefront of rising young stars in this market.

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Florida Panthers Aleksander Barkov is only 22. “Sasha” was Cats’ lone All-Star this season and is at the forefront of rising young stars in this market. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

▪ 18. Hassan Whiteside, Heat center: He’s had some injury issues and his points and rebounds are down this season, so he falls a bit on our list.

▪ 19. Stephen Ross, Dolphins owner: His teams tend to frustrate, but give Ross credit for his social activism such as his RISE initiative for equality.

▪ 20. Jim Larrañaga, Hurricanes men’s basketball coach: His team is about to celebrate its fourth NCAA Tournament invite in Larrañaga’s seven years at UM.

▪ 21. Venus Williams, tennis star: Always in Serena’s shadow, big sister Venus, of Palm Beach Gardens, still is relevant at 37 and ranked No. 8 in the world.

▪ 22. Helio Castroneves, IndyCar driver: A Fort Lauderdale resident, Castroneves is the only active driver to have won the Indianapolis 500 three times.

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Lane Kiffin just signed a 10-year contract with Florida Atlantic Jim Rassol AP

▪ 23. Lane Kiffin, FAU football coach: The Lane Train! Attention-getting coach arrived, turned the Owls into a bowl team, dominated Twitter and made FAU fun.

▪ 24. Udonis Haslem, Heat forward: At age 37 he plays very little, but we must make room for Mr. 305, the man who embodies Heat culture. Respect.

▪ 25. Butch Davis, FIU football coach: Ex-Canes coach returned to town and led Panthers to the school’s best season ever (tied) at 8-5, and into a bowl game.

The list breaks down to six each for the Dolphins and Heat, two each for UM, Marlins and Panthers, and seven “other.”

OK, so how’d I do? Now your turn. Do better.

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