With the 2017 NBA Finals set to kick off tonight at 9 p.m., this season marks the first time in seven years a former Gator won’t be competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Overall, nine Gators have played in one or more finals series, combining for 13 NBA championship rings.
Leading the way is power forward Udonis Haslem. The 36-year-old veteran has played his entire career in Miami and has been to five finals, winning three of them.
The Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 by a score of 4-2. Five years later the teams clashed again, with Miami losing the rematch in six games despite the additions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to its roster.
Haslem and the Heat would then win back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, downing Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder before stealing the following year’s series against Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio would get the best of Miami in a 2014 rematch.
Shooting guard Mike Miller is next on the list with four trips to the finals.
Miller played with Haslem in Miami for his first three appearances. In the Heat’s 2012 closeout victory over Oklahoma City, Miller exploded for 23 points behind 7-of-8 shooting from behind the three-point line.
Three years later, he faced Golden State with former Heat teammate LeBron James, this time in a Cleveland uniform.
Point guard Jason Williams, known for his flashy style of play, also won his only trip to the finals in 2006 with Miami.
The veteran duo of big men Marreese Speights (2015, 2016) and David Lee (2015) both made it to the finals with Golden State. The Warriors took down short-handed Cleveland in 2015, but lost when the two teams met again a year later.
San Antonio has also brought two Gators to the finals. In 2007, center Matt Bonner and shooting guard James White were on the winning side of a sweep against Cleveland.
Bonner also was a part of the 2013 team that fell to the Heat, and the 2014 rematch that San Antonio won in five games.
Corey Brewer played for the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 championship team. The Mavs defeated Miami for the title that season, giving the small forward his only ring.
The final player on this list is also the first former Gator to reach the NBA Finals.
Houston Rockets shooting guard Vernon Maxwell emerged from the 1994 and 1995 finals victorious, taking advantage of Michael Jordan’s two-year absence from the NBA with teammate and Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon.
While there are no Gators in the 2017 NBA Finals, there are a few who could make it a year from now.
Center Al Horford helped take Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, and Bradley Beal has become one of the better shooting guards in the league for a Washington team on the rise.
Neither has been to the NBA Finals before.
In the Western Conference, Speights—now with the Clippers—and Lee—a recent Spurs pickup—are both in position to provide depth and experience for potential contenders.