No disrespect to the team, but — quick! — name a current Miami Heat player.
Right, that’s what we thought.
Welcome back, Dwyane Wade. The team’s gaping name-brand hole has been filled.
Once again, the franchise has a defining face, even if it belongs to a star near the end of his NBA career.
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No doubt, the unexpected return of the franchise’s greatest player — come on, LeBron James was just passing through — is worth celebrating.
The Miami Heat’s announcement Thursday that it had acquired Wade from the Cleveland Cavaliers is the umpteenth big local sports story in recent months. It follows the resurrection of Miami Hurricanes football, the sale of the Miami Marlins, the arrival of former New York Yankees great Derek Jeter and David Beckham finally — finally — securing a site to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer team.
But Wade is an emotional pick. What a sweet “three-pointer at the buzzer to win the NBA title” move by Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra. The bad blood has been forgotten.
“It is a beautiful moment for us, for the city and for the fans. All of us embrace it in the manner that we want to win, and that’s why we brought Dwyane back home,” Riley said in a statement.
Sounds like a plan.
So just like that, the Heat is a better team today than it was 36 hours ago; it’s more prestigious and has a better chance of making it into the postseason. That’s what a player known for having the heart of a lion — and five NBA Finals appearances — can do for a franchise.
WATCH VIDEO: Miami Heat players react to Dwyane Wade’s return
And with Wade’s return comes a strong connection between a Heat player and the fans, something that has been lacking with the current lineup. We know the rest of the team ain’t chopped liver but, sorry, it’s the truth.
Wade, who will likely close out his career here, played 13 seasons in Miami, appearing in 855 regular-season games while averaging almost 24 points per game and winning three titles.
But his impact on the franchise is more than just about personal stats. Remember, Wade is the one who persuaded his friends James and Chris Bosh to come play in Miami and create a dynasty. He did it at the risk of overshadowing his own fame. Can you imagine Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant welcoming someone who might block their light?
Wade did it for the good of the team. He can share with young players his unselfish, all-for-one-and-one-for-all outlook.
At 36, is he too old and slow to make a difference? Are his knees too creaky? On Friday, he will back on the court at AmericanAirlines Arena. Ticket prices have suddenly soared.
But here’s how Teammate Wade can prove doubters wrong:
He can lead by example. Let the young whipper-snappers see how one sacrifices body and soul for a team.
He can teach them how to hold on when there are 30 seconds on the clock, and the team is behind by three points. In other words, the mental tenacity to will a win is something this team sorely lacks. Wade never gave up on the court.
And as he closes out his career, he can give it all he has and help the Heat win one more NBA championship — then retire in a sea of confetti.
Maybe, but Wade has carried the team on his back before to do the impossible.