A Wade Farewell
*Photo via Getty Images
Every NBA franchise has one defining player that is known as the face of the franchise. He is the ideal player that launches them to new levels of success including championship banners and relevance in the landscape of the NBA. A player who’s number will reside in the rafters after being retired. The Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and the San Antonio Spurs had Tim Duncan. On June 26th, 2003, the Miami Heat drafted a shooting guard from Chicago, Illinois with aspirations that he would become their franchise player.
In his first season, Dwyane Wade quickly broke into the NBA averaging 16.2 points on 46.5% shooting and averaged 4.5 assist and 4.0 rebounds per game and earned a selection to the 2004 NBA All-Rookie Team. Wade led the team to a first round win against the New Orleans Hornets. Suddenly, there was a star being born in South Beach.
Jerseys with the name “Wade” and number “3” on the back began to fill the American Airlines Arena. He was becoming a household name and was named as a reserve in the 2005 All-Star Game and a starter the following year. On June 13th, 2006, Wade established his legacy in the city’s basketball lore. The Heat trailed the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals 89-76 with 6:34 left in the 4th quarter. With a victory, the Mavericks would take a 3-0 series lead and the Heat’s first trip to the Finals would have likely ended on a sour note, no team has ever come back trailing 3-0.
Suddenly, the man nicknamed “Flash” by teammate Shaquille O’Neal, came to the rescue scoring 12 points on 5 of 7 shots in the remaining 6:34 to lead the Heat to a 98-96 victory and clinched the victory with a steal in the final seconds. He finished the game with 42 points and 13 rebounds and made 13 of 18 free throws. He played 11 minutes in the 4th quarter with five fouls. Watching Wade fuel the Heat to a comeback victory was similar to viewing art in motion. The guard slashed and cut to the basket with ease. He drew fouls and finished with contact. The Heat went on to win the next three games and capture their first NBA title in team history.
With so many defining moments in Wade’s career, selecting one was difficult; however his performance in the 2006 NBA Finals, where he averaged 34.7 points per game and won Finals MVP, stands as one of the greatest in NBA Finals history. Everyone remembers the special moment they laid eyes on their franchise player. For many, that was the moment Wade established himself as that player for the Heat.
Wade helped usher in the era of “The Big Three” as he helped convince superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join his crusade in Miami. As teammates they brought two championships to the city and made four straight NBA Finals appearances from 2010-2014.
After years of never being the highest paid player, he went into the 2016 Free Agency looking for a deal north of $20 million a year. Initially, Miami Heat President Pat Riley and the Heat offered him $10 million annually, a 50 percent drop from the previous season. Reports quickly rose stating Wade became frustrated with the organization. The team then offered him a two-year $40 million deal. The relationship seemed damaged beyond the point of repair.
On July 7, this became apparent as he agreed to a two-year deal worth $47 million with the Chicago Bulls. Wade released a letter to Miami, where he thanked the organization and the community. Wade also wrote on his Twitter, “I wanna say THANK YOU to #HeatNation... I've read and felt you guys love from afar. Thank you for appreciating my 13 years. #FamilyAlways”
Wade leaves behind the team he called home for 13 seasons as the owner of numerous Miami Heat records including games played (754), points (20,460), Assists (4,489), and Steals (1,300). Wade closes out his brilliant Heat career as a three time champions, a 12 time NBA All-Star, two time All-NBA First Team and 2009 NBA scoring leader.
The Heat found their franchise player and let him walk away. Things between Wade and the Heat shouldn’t have ended this sour. Now, the Heat must watch their franchise player head back home to play with the team he idolized growing up. Their differences went beyond dollar figures. Wade felt a lack of loyalty from Riley and the organization. Breaks up are never easy, even as the saying goes, “it’s nothing personal it’s just business.”
Next season will feel strange to many fans as Wade dons a red and black jersey that reads “Chicago” across the chest instead of “Miami.” It is now time to goodbye to an old friend who has moved on from sunny South Beach to the windy city. The fans and the city thank you for the memories and the championship banners. Thank you for ushering in 13 years of competitive Miami Heat basketball. Most importantly, you’ll always be welcomed back in a flash.
Courtesy of Basketball-Reference, ESPN