As the clock hit zeroes and “The Heat Is On” played over the public address system to celebrate the Miami Heat’s first home win of the season, Dwyane Wade made a beeline for the baseline near Miami’s bench, where one of his most famous former teammates awaited him.
Chris Bosh, decked out in jeans and a denim jacket, rose from his courtside seat to embrace Wade as a group of Heat players crowded around the future Hall of Famers. Hassan Whiteside eventually got his turn to hug the two-time NBA champion. Josh Richardson squared up to shadowbox with his former teammate, which gave Erik Spoelstra a chance to sneak up on Bosh and hug his former player from behind.
For at least a moment after the Heat’s 110-87 win against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, it felt like the 2010s in Miami.
“It just reminds you what a great league this association is,” Spoelstra said during his postgame press conference. “You want to develop meaningful relationships with people at the end of the day and have great memories. While we’re all getting paid a handsome salary to do a job, you’re going to do it to the best of your abilities, but those things are the things that you’ll take away from this business and those are deep, deep relationships.”
Bosh’s return to the arena where he helped win back-to-back NBA titles was a long time coming. Miami (2-2) officially waived Bosh before the 2017-18 season and the 11-time All-Star never returned to American Airlines during his first season as a free agent.
The divorce wasn’t exactly amicable — Bosh still would like to return to the court, but the Heat had a doctor agree Bosh’s blood clot issues constituted a career-ending illness — but there seemed to be no ill will Wednesday when he made his first return to the arena since his release.
After Bosh spent the immediate aftermath of the game celebrating with Miami on the court, he later ducked into the Heat locker room to continue mingling with his ex-teammates.
This early-season meeting with the Knicks (1-4) already held some historical significant to Spoelstra and the Big 3-era Heat. New York is now coached by David Fizdale, who was an assistant coach in Miami from 2008-2016, working beneath Spoelstra.
Bosh, however, was the one greeted twice by roaring cheers from the 19,600 in attendance for the Heat’s second home game of the year. The big screen first showed Bosh during the second quarter, spurring the first burst of applause. During the second half, Miami celebrated him again with a montage highlighting his storied career with the Heat.
“The ovation that CB got was great,” Wade said in the locker room after the game. “Our fans, they’re always appreciating what former players have done for this organization, to make us a championship organization.
“We couldn’t walk around as proud as we are without Chris Bosh.”
Although Wade has the most history with Bosh, he was far from the only one touched to see the post player back in the arena.
Whiteside and Bosh made a dynamic post tandem in the final years of Bosh’s career. Whiteside emerged as one of the NBA’s top up-and-coming centers when he debuted with the Heat in 2014 and he frequently started in the post alongside Bosh until the forward played his final game in 2016. They’re lockers we’re even situated right by each other at home.
“He meant a lot. He sat right here. He sat in this locker,” Whiteside said, pointing to the locker next to him after the game. “We had multiple conversations in this very spot just about life, basketball, controlling yourself on the court, channeling your focus.”
Bosh wrapped up his return trip to American Airlines by making an appearance on the Fox Sports Florida postgame show with Jason Jackson. Bosh broke down the Miami’s win, the Heat’s rotation of big men and the state of the league.
Jackson then recalled the last time he spoke to Bosh in person. They were both in Springfield, Mass., last month for Ray Allen’s Hall of Fame induction and Jackson told Bosh what he expected from the crowd the first time Bosh returned to Miami.
“It would be magical and love would just come raining down on you,” Jackson told him. “Is that how it felt?”
“It’s just precipitation everywhere, Jax,” Bosh said with a laugh. “I feel the love.”