Manuel Oliver and Patricia Paduay buried their 17-year-old son Joaquin last month in a Dwyane Wade jersey.
Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Oliver family were special guests of Wade, who has dedicated the rest of his 15th season in the NBA to Joaquin by writing his name on his sneakers every game.
Joaquin Oliver was among the 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the first person Wade knows of who has ever been buried in one of his jerseys.
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Wade’s sister Tragil and mother Jolinda, a pastor in Chicago, met with Oliver’s parents and sister Andrea Ghersi earlier this week and helped set up Saturday’s meeting with the future Hall of Famer, which happened after the Heat’s 105-96 win over the Pistons.
Before the game, Ghersi stood next to Wade during the national anthem. Oliver’s mother wore a necklace to Saturday’s game with a photo of her son on it.
“We’ve been trying to get them to the game so we could give them some stuff,” said Wade, who had a pair of his Way of Wade sneakers personalized with the Stoneman Douglas school logo on the front and Joaquin’s name across a black flap as a gift for the Oliver family.
“My mom appreciated Joaquin’s family respecting me the way they have. I think it meant a lot to my mom. She wanted to go, understanding the family is grieving right now to give them some form of something, whatever it was, words, or anything. I thought it was great. Before she left [back to Chicago] she got a chance to do that. We’re trying to do things not only for their family, but also the other 16 lives that were lost.”
Wade made the game-winning shot Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers while wearing a pair of black sneakers and Oliver’s name written on them in silver marker. Afterward, Wade said he felt like angels were guiding his shots.
In an interview on Univision’s show Al Punto, Oliver’s father said “sports were his passion.” Manuel Oliver said that when Wade was traded to the Heat six days before the shooting at Parkland his son called him with excitement in his voice.
“Joaquin called me at the office and said, ‘Dad, guess who’s coming back? Guess who is coming home?’ ” Oliver told Univision. “[I thought] ‘I don’t know. Maybe an aunt from Venezuela?’ [He said] ‘Wade is coming back! I need that jersey!’ ”
The Olivers couldn’t get Wade’s Vice edition jersey their son wanted fast enough — it’s on back order for thousands of fans until July.
“So he wore the one he had that day [of the funeral],” Patricia Oliver said.
Said Manuel: “He would have loved it. I would’ve loved to get it [the new jersey] for him, but we didn't have time.”
Wade, though, had one of those Vice jerseys waiting for the Olivers on Saturday, along with those specially ordered red Way of Wade shoes with Joaquin’s name on it.
“Over the years I’ve gotten to meet a lot of families and kids especially who say I’m their favorite player and I try to do things for them,” Wade said. “I obviously can’t do everything. But there are certain stories, certain moments, certain situations that touch you and it makes you do more.
“Life is bigger than basketball,” Wade continued. “This is definitely bigger than the game. Even though the game has brought certain people to admire me, this definitely makes it bigger than that. [What they did burying their son in my jersey] I don’t even know how to put it into words or thought at all. In a tough moment for a family, there’s so many decisions that you have to make. And for me to be a part of that — that he would have wanted to be buried in my jersey — that’s mind-boggling to me.”