Bradley Beal has looked up to Dwyane Wade for a long time, but he just never let him know it.
Beal, 25, finally summoned up the courage to pull Wade, 36, aside and ask to exchange jerseys with him following the Heat’s 115-109 win over the Wizards. It was then that Washington’s All-Star guard opened up to Miami’s 12-time All-Star guard about the admiration he has for his game.
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“He’s part of the reason that I wear No. 3,” Beal said to reporters after his moment with Wade. “For the first time I told him that [Friday]. I’ve never told him that in all the years that I’ve played against him.”
Beal admitted the fan in him came out when swapping jerseys with Wade.
“Man, I tried not to lose my mind when he gave [his jersey] to me,” Beal said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m trying not to be a fan, but I am a fan. I try to predicate a little bit of my game off of his. He’s a legend.
“I called him my idol and said thank you. That’s basically what I said, because he paved the way for me. He paved the way for a lot of us in today’s game and to see his hard work and to play as long as he did for one organization … he meant everything to this city and this team. That’s kind of the legacy that I want to leave behind, too.”
Exchanging jerseys with an opposing player after each game has become a signature element of Wade’s final NBA season, but Friday’s swap with Beal will go down as one of the special ones.
“It was so cool, man,” Wade said following Saturday’s practice, before the Heat traveled to Atlanta for Sunday’s game against the Hawks. “Obviously, when he told me in that moment, I was appreciative. Then, later on, you get time to think about the impact that you’re able to make on the game of basketball and younger players — and younger players that have turned into young stars in our league.”
When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra learned of Beal’s comments about Wade, it gave him “goosebumps.”
“Really cool because you never know what people think,” Spoelstra said. “You see a No. 3 and you wonder, and then you realize, ‘Oh, boy. Dwyane had such an impact like right away out of the gate in his career.’ These guys were really young watching him in the Finals. It’s a point I keep on making to our players, you want to be remembered. But you have to win. Dwyane has been to five Finals, three championship rings, he’s sacrificed a lot to be able to be a part of winning programs.”
In Beal’s 16th head-to-head meeting with Wade, he finally let him know how he feels about his game. They own an even 8-8 head-to-head record when facing each other over their careers.
Beal could face Wade one more time, though. The Heat visits the Wizards on March 23.
“I love his game. I love the way he plays the game,” Wade said of Beal. “I think last night, for me, was cool that he took that opportunity, that moment, to tell me how much of a fan he was of my game and how much he idolized the way I played. It’s just cool to hear that from a guy who I respect his game. That was one of the coolest moments I’ve had so far this season.”
For Beal, it was one of the coolest moments he’s had so far in his NBA career.
“I learned a lot, man. Just by the way he moves, by the way he carries himself,” he said of Wade. “He carries himself like a pro. He’s one of the best to ever do it. He’s not cocky with it, he does it in a humble way. He’s still able to do what he does at this age, it’s amazing. Everything he’s been through, people talk about him, but he’s still here, he’s still competing with the best of us. I have nothing but respect for him.”