Into the Rafters
On Feb. 23, the Miami Heat raised Dwyane Wade’s number 3 jersey into the rafters of the AAA (American Airlines Arena) in Miami, FL.
Wade retired at the end of last season, officially putting an end to his 16-year-career, in which 14 and half of those were spent with the Heat. (Traded from Cleveland to Miami in year 15)
Dwyane is the Miami Heat’s all-time leader in points, steals, games played, and assists as well as all-time leader in playoff points and games played.
You know D-Wade has the stats and accolades to back his Hall of Fame career, like his 3x NBA championships, finals MVP, 8x All-NBA, 3x All-Defense, 13x All-Star, Olympic Gold and Bronze medals and NBA scoring champion. But I’m not here to tell you about Flash’s stat line or awards, I want to tell you what he means to not only basketball, but what he means to South Florida.
I am from Broward County, Florida, the 954. Broward is one county north of Miami-Dade County, the 305, where the Miami Heat play. Obviously being from that area I was a Miami Heat fan, as I supported the local teams like the Panthers, Dolphins, and Hurricanes. No I didn’t leave out the Marlins, thanks Loria. But there was something different about the Heat. Besides being the only South Florida team to be good during my youth, they had something that the other teams didn’t really have, a franchise player.
Dwyane Wade was more than just a basketball player, to Miami he was everything. The city of Miami was waiting for the next great athlete to wear one of their team’s colours. Ever since Dan Marino, QB for the Miami Dolphins retired, the city didn’t have that star player in town. Starting in June of 2003, that was no longer going to be the case. With the fifth overall selection of the 2003 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat selected Dwyane Wade, SG, from Marquette.
Wade had been given quite a few nicknames during his tenure with the Heat: Flash, D-Wade, The Flash and his self-proclaimed “Way of Wade”. Dwyane had such an impact on Miami, locals called Miami-Dade County, Miami-Wade County.
It took just three years from that date for Dwyane Wade to bring the Miami Heat it’s first championship in franchise history. I was just five years old when my Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games. Wade won Finals MVP after averaging 34.7 PPG.
He showed the city and the world what he could do every time he stepped on the court and the 2006 season was just the start to what he would accomplish in his career.
The Big 3
In 2010, Miami was able to resign Wade and sign NBA All-Stars Chris Bosh and Lebron James to create the Big 3. This trio of superstars was just what Miami needed to get back on top. Watching Wade, Bosh and James play together was truly something special. I watched Heat games every chance I had. Lebron James was the best player in the world at that point in his career, but the Heat was still Wade’s team. 11-year-old me jumped from my couch everytime Wade ran down the floor and threw up a lob to James. The AAA erupted every time a highlight play was made by the Big 3.
Miami won two more championships in four years with the Big 3 as well as four straight NBA Finals appearances. Lebron left Miami to return back to Cleveland following their 2013 Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs, putting an end to the Big 3. 2013 would be the last time in Wade’s NBA career that he would play in the Finals.
I honestly believe that the younger generation of kids won’t ever truly understand how good Wade was in his prime. I cannot tell you the amount of times I had to argue with someone about how good prime Wade was. Yes, he never won MVP (should have in 2009) but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the greatest of all time. Somebody told me that since Wade never got an MVP award he would slowly fade out of everyone’s memories. I can guarantee that we won’t forget the way Wade balled out every night.
I personally won’t forget when he drove to the basket and postered Andersen Varejao, when he hit the buzzer beater three against Golden State in his final season, or my favourite moment against Chicago when he stole the ball, ran up the court, jumped from the three point line with one foot and sunk the game winner. This lead to Wade jumping on the scorers table at the AAA and screaming “This is my house”! The AAA is the arena that Wade built and it will forever be his house.
Dwyane Wade was my favourite basketball player for a few reasons. I loved when he would size up his defender then pull a crossover and drain a three in their face. He used his quick pump fake to draw an and one. Wade driving the lane and pulling a euro step was always beautiful to watch. Dwyane is the NBA’s all-time leader in blocks by a guard, so you know he’d send the opposing players packing if they tried to come in his face. The best move Wade had in my opinion was his vintage fadeaway. When he posted up his defender and turned for the fadeaway, it was money almost every time.
The 2016 off-season is when Wade and the Heat were at a standstill during contract negotiations. Wade had been taking pay cuts during his prime so the Heat would always have a team that could contend. When Lebron left, Chris Bosh was given a max deal. When it was time for Wade to reup on his deal, he wanted to be shown the respect he deserved. Miami wasn’t willing to throw a lot of money at Wade. Wade felt disrespected by the organization and signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls. To Wade it wasn’t about the money, it was about respect. After one season with Chicago, Wade elected to take his talents elsewhere and a bunch of Heat fans, including me were hoping for a return to the 305. Wade signed with Cleveland so he could once again team up with Lebron James. I thought I would never get to see Wade wear a heat jersey again. That was until the trade deadline in 2018 when Cleveland blew up half their team. Dwyane Wade was traded back to the Miami Heat, he was coming home.
On Feb. 9, 2018, Flash returned home, to the place he built. Dwyane Wade was once again wearing the only jersey he should have ever worn, the Miami Heat “3”. Wade finished the season with Miami and made the decision to come back for one more year. Dwyane Wade, the best Miami sports athlete of all-time was about to retire.
One Last Dance
Wade’s farewell tour was called “One Last Dance” and for good reason too. Fans from opposing teams would cheer Wade everytime he checked in for the last time in their arena. At the end of the game Wade would exchange jerseys with a player from the opposing team. It was fun to see all of this at the beginning, but towards the end of the season when it was looking like Miami wouldn’t make the playoffs, reality started to hit.
On April 9, 2019, for the last time in his career, the Robbins, Illinois native, Dwyane Wade played his last game in Miami against the Philadelphia 76ers. From the first possession of the game Wade put on a show, starting off the night with a subtle dunk. Wade ended the night with 30 points and a 122-99 victory for the Heat. Tears came from my eyes knowing that Wade would never play in Miami again.
Wade had one more game to play before he hung up his laces forever. On April 10, 2019, Dwyane Wade would play his final NBA game against the Brooklyn Nets. Every shot he made, both the Miami and Brooklyn fans cheered. Wade finished his career with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, giving him his fifth career triple-double. Wade got his final assist from a Udonis Haslem two-pointer. UD has been Wade’s teammate since they both entered the league in 2003. It couldn’t have been written any better than that. The two longest tenured Heat players connecting for the final assist of Dwyane Wade’s amazing career.
I honestly believe that the city of Miami will never have a player that made as big of an impact as Dwyane Wade. The excitement he brought to the fans when he made a highlight play can never be matched. We had Lebron James, undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes to ever live. Lebron was one of the most exciting Heat players ever, but nothing will ever compare to the energy flash brought to the AAA.
Dwyane Wade’s number 3 now hangs from the rafters of the American Airlines Arena. He will forever be enshrined in the hearts of all Miami Heat Fans. We will all look forward to the day that your name is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the day your statue sits outside of the AAA. Thank you for all the memories Dwyane, thank you for putting the city on your back, thank you for showing us Heat Culture, thank you for being the king of Miami, thank you for being number 3, Dwyane Wade.