Dwyane Wade’s divorce from the Miami Heat might be bitter, but his breakup with us, his South Florida fans, is anything but. This one hurts, but there is no animosity, just sadness.
Overnight, he’s gone. But we won’t say he’s going back to his hometown of Chicago: Miami was Mr. Wade’s home, or at least that’s how we all felt.
Mr. Wade gave us the best years of his playing career. And for him, we gladly became Wade County and the Heat Nation, especially during the NBA Finals, when everyone was a fan.
For 13 years, on some special nights after he became the team’s first draft choice in 2003, he performed pure magic for us on a wooden court, usually in the fourth quarter. He always believed the Heat would win — and so did we, because of him.
There should be no burning of Mr. Wade’s No. 3 jersey, no bad-mouthing of him on local sports radio. Just as it happens at the office when someone leaves the building for the last time, we’ll stand up and clap for a job well done and truly wish him well.
We had no idea that Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 15 against the Toronto Raptors would be the last time Mr. Wade would wear a Miami Heat jersey.
Mr. Wade scored 16 points in that game, which the Heat lost.
In his goodbye tweets to his Miami fans, Mr. Wade said:
“I wanna say THANK YOU to #HeatNation… I’ve read and felt you guys love from afar. Thank you for appreciating my 13 years. #FamilyAlways”
“The hardest part was leaving u guys. Y’all have supported me thru all my UPs, but most importantly, my DOWNS.”
“I’m gonna miss running to the end corners of the court and the scorers’ table yelling ‘This is MY House!!!’ ”
He was our famous local athlete and our accidental teacher:
Mr. Wade taught us that “the team”— whatever that is in our lives — is what matters. He taught us that when you believe in something and want it bad enough, you give it all, body and soul. And that you never give up until that final buzzer — literally and figuratively.
For the NBA and the Heat, he was the rare epitome of an unselfish star, sacrificing his wallet and his ego.
Remember when Shaquille O’Neal came to town? And when LeBron James brought his talents here? This was Mr. Wade’s team before they arrived; twice he stepped aside and let other players claim the spotlight with no prima donna drama.
Do you think Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan would have done that?
Why Heat honcho Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison let him go is now a moot point.
There have been reports that Mr. Wade felt slighted when the Heat front office salivated at the possibility of signing free agent Kevin Durant; that he was hurt that Mr. Riley said at a news conference his offseason No. 1 priority was signing emerging star Hassan Whiteside, not him; that he felt disrespected all around. Or, as sports columnist and radio personality Dan Le Batard reported, Mr. James may have encouraged Mr. Wade not to take it anymore.
There is an undertone from the Heat that Mr. Wade is a star past his prime, but he doesn’t see it.
He was worth $40 million over two years and not a penny more.
The Bulls upped it to around $47 million, so he bolted. Anyone would have done the same.
We wish Mr. Wade the best — and we mean it.
What fun we had together, though. For that we thank you, Mr. Wade.