For a handful of minutes Wednesday after the Miami Heat’s 108-74 win against the Detroit Pistons, Wayne Ellington sat at his locker in the visiting locker room at AmericanAirlines Arena, scrawling a message on the giant “0” of his blue No. 20 Pistons jersey with a black Sharpie marker.
By the time the Ellington was done, the entire numeral was covered in black ink, a note to Dwyane Wade after the two guards squared off for likely the last time.
“It’s been an honor to play with D-Wade this past year and some change, and to get to know him as a person has been even better, just to know what type of guy he is off the floor,” Ellington said. “He’s one of the more selfless superstars this game has seen, and obviously what he’s done on the court doesn’t really need to be spoken about. He’s phenomenal, man, and I’m glad I got a chance to spend that time with him.”
Ellington, who began the season with the Heat before Miami traded him to the Pistons at the trade deadline, became a first Wednesday after the Heat routed Detroit in Miami. The wing is now the only player to be a teammate of Wade’s and take part in the 13-time All-Star’s customary postgame jersey swap.
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When the final buzzer sounded and both teams went through postgame pleasantries, Wade pulled Ellington aside for an extra moment. With cameras flashing around them, Wade handed Ellington his white No. 3 jersey and Ellington gave Wade his new Pistons jersey.
“I didn’t expect it,” Ellington said. “I learned to appreciate D and he appreciates me as well, so I appreciate him for giving me his jersey. It’s something that I’ll keep forever, for sure.”
Ellington first got to play with Wade last season, when Miami dealt for the future Hall of Famer from the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline. The two were teammates for the final 27 games of last season, then for the first 52 of this season before the Heat traded him last month.
“One of my favorite teammates. Just a great guy, man,” Wade said. “When I got back here, I just connected with him right away. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of respect for him playing against him. He’s just one of the good guys. For me, it was cool that I was able to do that. When he was on my team, guys on my team are always asking questions like, ‘When are we going to get a jersey?’ I said, ‘Dang, Wayne, it took you going to another team to get one.’ But I was happy I was able to do it.”
Ellington said what stood out from his time with Wade was the influence the veteran had on Miami’s young core. Since Wade returned midway through last season, combo guard Josh Richardson, point forward Justise Winslow and post player Bam Adebayo have taken major steps in their development.
Part of this is, Ellington said, is because they can look at Wade as an influence both as someone to get advice from, but also simply someone to to model their careers around.
“I watched him be the great player that he is,” Ellington said, “but I keep saying the person that he is, I think that’s bigger than the game. Just the way he’s selfless and his approach, his view. The way he took the game of basketball and made it more than just a basketball game. He did it with fashion, he did with his shoe thing and business-wise. He’s just one of those guys that you point to a young player and you say, ‘You see what D-Wade did on and off the floor? That’s a lead that you should follow.’”