Let’s flashback to the 2006 NBA Finals: the powerhouse Dallas Mavericks versus the underdog Miami Heat. The Heat had some great talent with Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Williams, Gary “The Glove” Payton, and Udonis Haslem. However, I remember one player in that series that excited Heat fans more than others. He was seen all over the court, dunking the basketball and playing defense. The number three flashed before our eyes as he played this game he was meant to play.
On Sept. 16, I discovered some heartbreaking news. Wade announced that his 16th season would be his last. The player who started my love for basketball was only a year away from leaving the game that inspired me to write about sports.
The Flash, as many Heat fans know him, has been rousing fans in the American Airlines Arena for 15 years. Wade brought Miami its first NBA championship in 2006. In 2010, he encouraged LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in Miami, where they won two more NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. He is the human being who, since his rookie year in 2003, called Miami his “real” home and evolved it into a championship franchise. His achievements and championships with the Heat helped build a basketball culture in Miami.
“It’s been 15 years strong as brothers, as teammates, as competitors, as teammates again, as competitors again. Our brotherhood is beyond this game of basketball. You just don’t take it for granted,” said James in an ESPN interview on March 28.
Yet, many people focus on Wade’s achievements on the court, but they forget how much he has done for the youth in Miami and the community itself, including myself. Wade has even earned accolades for his contributions. He won the 2018 NBA Community Assist Award for his efforts in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting by making time for hospital visits to students and donating to the cause. In his earlier years, he was the player I tried to emulate.
His commitment to young people in Miami is something I can never overlook. I’m happy to see that even though he is going into his final season, his commitment to the Miami community has not changed.
“Even when I retire from basketball, I will continue to do those things that I’ve done in the community. And, how you want to be remembered is as somebody that was a part of the community and tried to do their best to push the community forward,” Wade said during the Miami Heat Media Day press conference on Sept. 24.
Throughout his life, Wade has been doubted, but he’s always used it to his advantage.
“My whole career is built on fuel,” Wade said in a 2010 Sportsnet interview. “It’s always been there. It’s not going to change what I do with my life. It’s not going to change the way I am as a person. But it fuels you. And we all need that. Every athlete, every competitor needs something to fuel them.”
I remember when he only received three athletic scholarships to play college basketball. I can’t forget when he had to sit out his first year with Marquette University because of academic issues or when he led Marquette University to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament as underdogs. How about when he used basketball to distract him from his rough upbringing in Chicago, where his mother was in and out of jail. Finally, who can forget when his haters said that at age 36 he didn’t have much left in the tank. Yet, in the 2018 playoffs he helped Miami win it’s only game against the Philadelphia 76ers in a performance that screamed nostalgia.
Even then, he made zero excuses and from the moment he arrived in Miami as a baby-faced rookie, he put in the work to stand here today and back-up the city’s decision to name the whole county after him. That’s right, in 2010 the Miami-Dade County commissioners passed a legislation that renamed Miami-Dade County into Miami-Wade County for one week. Today, Heat fans have kept the nickname alive.
Oh yeah, Wade County baby!
All these moments inspired Miami’s youth to work through life with the same drive and determination.
“Dwyane Wade’s dedication and hard work has taught me that through consistency and forming good habits, I can be great at what I desire no matter my background or what others may say,” said FIU Marketing student, Bryan Marquez. “It just goes to show that hard work is and will always be what Dwyane Wade stands for.”
Sadly, Miami Heat fans will only be able to see Flash wear the Heat uniform for one last season. My sports hero is saying goodbye, but Wade seems to be at peace about it all — and we should too.
That is why all Heat fans should do exactly what Wade asks of us.
“I have no idea what I want this year, so that’s why I said, ‘Let’s write it together,’” Wade said for an article by The Athletic. “We’re going to be able to figure this thing out as the year goes on. It’s going to take on a life of its own.”
Let’s admire this last season where he will lay it all on the line for one more 82-game NBA season. All the blood, sweat, and tears from the past, the present, and the future will be put on full display for one more year.
So, I say let’s join him.
In what Wade calls:
“ONE LAST DANCE.”