When learning how high he stood in the first fan returns of All-Star balloting results, Heat guard Dwyane Wade was caught off guard.
“I just appreciate it,” Wade said in advance of Friday’s home game against the Wizards. “I’m humbled by people taking the time out to want to see my old self in the All-Star Game. It’s cool.”
Wade, who turns 37 on Jan. 17 and has announced he’s retiring at the end of the season, came in second among Eastern Conference guards in the initial fan returns of All-Star balloting results released Thursday by the NBA.
Boston’s Kyrie Irving (910,329) is the only East guard with more votes than Wade (409,156), who is ahead of other top candidates such as Charlotte’s Kemba Walker (319,519), Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (259,993) and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo (198,009).
“I’m not surprised,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade’s place in the fan voting results. “I think it’s such a credit to not only the Hall of Fame career that he had, but the class and humility that he’s operated with all these years. That will create a great fan base. People know and sense and root for people who are all about the right things. Dwyane had proven, as much as any player in this generation, that he’s about winning. He’s had to make a lot of sacrifices for that.
“But in terms of popularity out there, just look at our scene at any road game at the hotel or walking off the floor after a game. The legion of Dwyane Wade fans out there, that is well-earned.”
Wade is the only Heat player among the top 10 in the voting among guards or frontcourt players. But it will take more than the fan vote to get Wade into the All-Star Game as a starter.
Unlike previous years when fans were the only ones voting for the All-Star Game’s 10 starters, fan balloting now accounts for 50 percent of the vote. Players and a media panel each accounting for 25 percent of the vote.
Every voter submits a ballot with two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference to determine the starters.
“A lot has to go my way to be elected,” Wade said, acknowledging the fact he also needs to finish among the top vote-getters on the players’ and media’s ballots to have a real chance to start in this year’s All-Star Game. “But like I said, it’s humbling from the fan’s standpoint. It’s different now with the other votes that come in from the players and [the media]. But I appreciate more so than anything, I appreciate the fan votes.
“It always means a lot because they’re the ones that make this game as big as it is. I know a lot of people are saying we need to take the fans’ votes away, but they’re the ones who want to see who they want to see.”
If Wade doesn’t get voted in as a starter, he still could make it as a reserve. The coaches determine the seven reserves from each conference.
Wade, who entered Friday averaging 14.1 points on 41.2 percent shooting off the Heat’s bench this season, last appeared in the All-Star Game in 2016. He is a 12-time All-Star, and has been voted in as a starter 10 times.
The 2019 All-Star Game will take place at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 17. Voting from fans, players and media will conclude on Jan. 21 at 11:59 p.m.
When Spoelstra is not coaching in the All-Star Game, he usually takes that time off to disconnect from basketball for a few days. But if Wade makes it, it could change Spoelstra’s plans.
“That is a tough question. Wow,” Spoelstra said when asked if he’ll pay attention to the All-Star Game if Wade is participating. “I don’t know. That is a really tough question.”