Counting the playoffs, Dwyane Wade has played in 1,139 games in his career and won 671 of them.
All that winning has taught him enough perspective to know his flashback performance Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers – when he scored a season-high 27 points including 15 of the Heat’s final 17 points – was not a 36-year-old future Hall of Famer suddenly discovering the fountain of youth. No, Wade knows what happened Tuesday night was special – maybe something even heaven-sent.
“As I kind of tweeted, it was like I was playing with angels in the outfield,” Wade said Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he played with the name of Joaquin Oliver – a 17-year-old senior who was among the 17 gunned down on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland – written in silver marker on his black sneakers.
“It really felt special,” Wade continued. “Even J.J. Reddick’s shot missing [at the end of the game], I felt like they just moved it out the way. It definitely felt like they we were there.”
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Wade wasn’t only talking about his performance Tuesday night. He was also referring to how the University of Miami men’s basketball team won on a last second shot at top-10 ranked North Carolina and how the Florida Panthers won on a goal in overtime over Toronto.
“We all [were] playing with angels in the outfield,” he said. “Our state and our city, we needed this. I definitely felt like my shots were being guided. Everybody knows I lost my agent about a month ago, which was very tough for me. And then all the things that have been going on in South Florida, so [Tuesday] night was a special night for this city to be able to have something to smile about, something to be relieved about in that moment.”
Wade, a Chicago native, has plenty of perspective too when it comes to gun violence. He’s lost three family members to it. What happened at Douglas scares the heck out of him as a father. His sons attend private school in Broward County – and not far from where Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old mass murderer, went on a rampage at his former school.
So, Wade feels compelled in his adopted hometown of South Florida to keep the conversation going on what happened at Douglas. It’s why he wrote Oliver’s name on his sneakers before Tuesday night’s game and dedicated his season to him after Oliver’s parents laid him to rest in a Wade jersey. And why his mother, Jolinda, was going to meet privately with Oliver’s parents Wednesday to deliver those same shoes Wade wore Tuesday to his family.
Wade understands his presence in this community is important and his voice carries weight. It’s why he won’t just “shut up and dribble.”
“Last year when I went to Chicago my cousin was shot down by gun violence,” Wade said. “I had a nephew shot by gun violence. I had another cousin killed by gun violence. Personally, my own life has been affected by gun violence. It’s hurt my family. When you’re affected personally, you feel it even more than when you just wake up and hear something. But when you hear kids...
“My [eldest] son is 16-years old. Similar to my other son that goes to school out near Parkland that’s 10 years old. It hurts me to think about what happened. So, yeah, our voice needs to be heard for the parents, for the individuals in the school to bring and share light or attention on what needs to be done and how we can help get it done.
“Not just my voice. Udonis [Haslem’s] voice, the organization in Miami. This is a powerful team in this community with Pat Riley and Micky Arison and all the guys that do amazing things in this community. Chris Riley, Madeiline [Arison]. We’ve got a good bunch here. Our voices and the work we do has always been for this community and we want to keep it that way. But yeah, we won’t shut up and dribble. We don’t shut up on the court, so we won’t shut up off the court.”