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Old Flames: Catching Up with Former HEAT Players You Still Love

Jan 10 2006 9:50AM
#2 Rory Sparrow

Rory Sparrow MIAMI, January 10 — There’s nothing easy about playing for an expansion team. Just ask Rory Sparrow. The 12-year NBA pro played the first two seasons for the expansion Miami HEAT. The 6-foot-2 guard was the leader for the young HEAT teams which included Rony Seikaly, Kevin Edwards and Grant Long.

“I was happy to still be in the league. I was with the Bulls and was waiting for them to re-sign me. Michael Jordan was getting to that next level, and two days before training camp I got signed by Miami. I got there with all these young guys, most of whom I haven’t heard of, but I got the opportunity to be thrown in the middle and start.”

Sparrow started in 104 of 162 games for the HEAT from 1988-90 and averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 assists. Although Sparrow expected that wins would be tough to get during Miami’s first year of existence, he didn’t expect, however, that the HEAT would flirt with NBA history for the worst start in NBA history.

The HEAT would lose its first 17 games before they would taste victory. But on Dec. 14, 1988 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Sparrow appeared in a game that he would never forget.

“We knew it was going to be a tough year - just not this tough,” Sparrow said. “Nobody expects to lose their first 17 (games).

“When you look at the NBA schedule, you know that there are few teams that you know you can beat,” he continued. “The Clippers were one of them. We put our focus on that game.”

The HEAT edged the Clippers, 89-88, at Los Angeles, winning its first game in franchise history. Sparrow played a major role in the landmark win, scoring only four points but dishing out a game-high nine assists.

Rory Sparrow“We had finally won a game,” he said. “We just went crazy with a mid-court celebration. It was such a relief to finally end the streak.”

It wasn’t just the Clippers’ 6-13 recorded coming into that night’s contests that made Sparrow and the rest of the HEAT believe they could sneak out a win. But the HEAT may have gotten a little bit more inspiration, thanks to comedian and former late-night talk show host Arsenio Hall.

“We went to the Arsenio Hall Show the night before the game. He asked the team to stand up (in the audience), and he said that we were the only team the Clippers could beat. Went out the next day and beat them.”

To get a young team to stay motivated through the tough season, where the HEAT finished 15-67, Sparrow had to be a mentor – a role he continues to play today.

“One of the roles I had was mentoring to the young guys,” he said. “I had to teach them how to win. That process of getting them through the losses and helping them know how to win was probably more gratifying than any statistic.

“Mentoring is my job now.”

Today, Sparrow is the Vice President of Player Program Development for the NBA league office in New York City. He helps players, especially rookies, with challenges of the NBA lifestyle. He also helps players with life issues which includes financial advice, relationships, media and even drug addiction.

“Our motto is: ‘Basketball is what you do, not who you are.’ We help players develop skills.”

Even though Sparrow will forever be embedded in HEAT history for being a part of HEAT’s landmark win, Sparrow will also be remembered for scoring the first point in franchise history.

“It’s the humble beginning that people remember when you make it to the top. When you look back, people will say that it all started with that basket – that jump shot in November against the Clippers.”