Dwyane Wade’s return tour with the Heat will extend into a second season. But it will be the final season of his NBA career.
Wade, 36, announced in a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday night that he is coming back for “One last dance.”
The 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion will return for a 16th and final season with the club which drafted him fifth overall in 2003.
The Heat offered Wade the $2.4 million veteran’s minimum, and he plans to accept it. Wade met with Heat coach Erik Spoelsta last week and emerged with a stronger conviction about returning this season, according to a source with direct knowledge.
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“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Wade said in a video posted Sunday night announcing his return. “But it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever had to make.... I asked myself why, why not? I have heard everything from my family to my fans around the world of what I should and shouldn’t do. But I always have done things my way. I got here because I have done things the way I feel is right for me and right for my family.
“What I feel is it’s right to ask you guys to join me for one last dance. For one last season. This is it. I’ve given this game everything that I have, and I’m happy about that. And I am going to give it for one last season everything else I have left. Let’s enjoy it.... Let’s push this young team over the hump and write our own story to the end of this career together. Season 1-6, we call it sweet 16, it’s coming to the arena real soon.”
His return means the Heat now has 14 players signed to guaranteed contracts and the maximum 20 players signed for camp, including seven wing players signed to guaranteed deals; Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson, and Derrick Jones Jr. are the others.
Miami was already $4 million over the NBA’s $123 million luxury tax line before reaching its deal with Wade and will keep its tax bill down by signing Wade to a minimum deal, unless the Heat changes its mind and decides at the last minute to give him more than that.
Because of where the Heat stands against the luxury tax, signing Wade to the $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception would result in an actual cash outlay of $14.2 million for the coming season.
By contrast, because the league subsidizes contracts signed for one year at the minimum scale, Wade accepting the $2.4 million minimum would cost the Heat about $3.8 million for this coming season.
Taken four picks after four-time league MVP and close friend LeBron James in the 2003 NBA Draft, Wade played his first 13 seasons with the Heat, which included championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013.
He left the Heat in the summer of 2016 and played a season in Chicago before he was bought out and played half a season in Cleveland. Miami reacquired Wade at the trade deadline last February, sending the Cavaliers a heavily protected 2024 second-round pick.
Wade played in 21 regular-season games for the Heat, compensating for the injury absence of Dion Waiters and helping Miami finish with a 44-38 record and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
He averaged 12 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists and shot 40.9 percent from the field, well below his 48.3 career average. He shot 9 for 41 on three-pointers (22 percent) in those 22 games with the Heat.
His regular-season highlight: a 27-point game against Philadelphia on Feb. 27, including the game-winning jump shot with 5.9 seconds left.
After pushing Miami to its only playoff victory with 28 points in a Game 2 win in Philadelphia, he entered this summer as an unrestricted free agent unsure about his future.
“I’m not as quick as I used to be,” Wade said in his video. “I don’t jump as high as I used to and boy I used to get up. But there are things in this game that I have that I can write a book on, I can still accomplish with a team,… with the right coach in the right situation… To have the career I’ve had, I can’t do nothing but smile on it, just enjoy it.”
Heat president Pat Riley made clear earlier this summer that the Heat again envisions a meaningful role for Wade.
“I want Dwyane back as a player, I want him back as a guy that wants to have the greatest year he’s ever had as a player,” Riley said in late July. “I read more articles about Dwyane being done, he’s lost a step, he’s not the same player, he might not have the same motivation. There have been a lot of things written about him in that context.
“But I still see a player who can contribute heavily if he really wants to. If he plays, he’s going to want to do that. We don’t want him back as a placemat holder or somebody who’s going to be a veteran in the locker room. Dwyane is a great player, a great talent. He’s not the same guy he was in 2006, but he can be a very good player for us and can make a big difference for us. We want him back as a guy that realizes if this is going to be his last year or whatever, we want this to be his best year ever.”
Wade stands 31st on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 22,082 points and 50th on the NBA’s all-time assist list with 5,400.
He also has the second-most blocks by a guard in NBA history (847), behind only Michael Jordan’s 893.
Wade said earlier this summer his ‘only vision’ should he return to the NBA was playing in a Miami Heat uniform. Part of his reasoning was because he wanted to be closer to his sons, including 16-year-old Zaire, a budding young basketball star at American Heritage School in Plantation.
Some highlights of what Wade said in his video Sunday:
“When you first come in the league, the vets tell you, ‘Young fellow, it’s going to go by fast.’ You think at that time, I’m just getting started.
“As I stand here today, Sept. 16, roughly 1:15 p.m., I am here to tell you it goes by fast. It’s been a tough summer. This has been a summer for me that not a lot of athletes want to see this time come, where you have to decide if you want to continue to play the game that you love, continue to play the game that you played for 31 years, since I was 5, or if you want to walk away or if you want to do something else, if you want to clear the path for the next generation to come in.
“There are a lot of emotions that go with that. You ask yourself so many questions. You’re like: Can I physically do it? Can I physically get out of bed every day to do this? Can I deal with every step hurting in the morning? Can I deal with the travel? Can I be away from my family? Is it selfish of me to continue to be away from my family? Can I miss my son’s games? Can I not be there at moments that they need me? Can I not read to my kids as much as I want? Can I not be there for to support wife?
“These things to you guys might seem small. But to me they’re real. My family have put me first for so many years, for good reasons. There comes a time where we all have to think of someone else, especially the ones around you that have supported your dreams, supported your journey, like my family has.
“A lot of you see me as a three-time champion, a 12 time All Star, Olympic gold medalist. What you all didn’t see - you all didn’t see the kid no one [saw] because he was small, because he couldn’t shoot like everyone else, because he wasn’t athletic as everybody else, because he was from the inner city of Chicago, because he lived in a town called Robbins, Ill.
“You all didn’t see the grind, you all didn’t see the tears. You all didn’t see the moments where it looked like it wouldn’t happen. Everybody had these ideas of what I am supposed to be. I didn’t have those ideas. I just had a dream of being in the NBA. And man, as I sit here 15 years later, how did I end up having a career and the life so far in this game of basketball that I’ve had?
“I didn’t play varsity until my junior year. I wasn’t good enough to play because I didn’t play. I had three scholarship offers to go to school, 3 ½. I had a partial one to another school. I had to sit out my first year when I went to college [at Marquette]. I couldn’t play.
“I got drafted fifth in the NBA draft in 2003 but it wasn’t about me. But I worked. I believed. I believe if I put the work in and laid it all out there and gave everything to this game, I can walk away from this game with my head held high. People along this journey kept telling me, ‘Young fellow, you can’t keep playing that way, you are not going to last long.’
“And maybe they [were] right. Maybe if I had become more of a jump shooter, I wouldn’t be sitting here at 36 years old, asking myself, ‘Do I want to walk away from this game?’ But that’s not me. When I believe in something, I go 110 percent into it. That’s what I did. I gave my body up. I gave my county up.
“I gave my money up. I gave everything up to get to that dream, that goal I always wanted to get to. And that’s the feeling of being a champion, ... being a part of something that’s bigger than me. I always wanted that, growing up in the inner city of Chicago. This game has been bigger than me. It’s been bigger than how many points I can score, how many times I can hear my name in the starting lineup.
“As I stand in front of this camera today, as I talk with nobody in this room, I am talking to my fans, and I want to say: Along this journey, to the people supported me before the world knew me, thank you. The ones that push me when I am down, the ones that tell me I can keep doing it, my family, my wife, my mom, my sister, so forth, so on, thank you. I also want to thank my fans along this journey…. Thank you guys for the love. Like, Wade-County. I have a county!
“I lost somebody very important in my life [agent Henry Thomas].... When Hank came into my life, I wanted Hank to be proud of me... With him not being there last year, I lost something from this game. Me being traded back to Miami helped, but it wasn’t enough.
“Season 16, we call it sweet 16, it’s coming to the arena real soon. I have given this game everything I have and I am happy about that.... When I walk away I am still going to love it, I’m still going to want to play it. I am still going to miss the playoff moments. I am still going to miss the crowd cheering my name, I am still going to miss 20,000 cheering for me. I said booing for me because that’s what they’re doing.”
But he will get all of that in one last season with the Heat, thanks to a decision finalized Sunday night.