On select occasions this season, Dwyane Wade has used his customary jersey exchange as a chance to share a moment with a player not involved with the game that just took place. The aftermath of the Miami Heat’s 113-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday was one of those occasions.
Wade began communicating with Ryan Shazier in the lead-up to the game and found out the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker would be in attendance at AmericanAirlines Arena. Wade wanted to show his appreciation for Shazier and the medical battle the South Floridian has waged since suffering a spinal injury in 2017.
“We had a little conversation over Twitter or Instagram, whatever it was — social media platform — but we know a lot of the same people and I knew he was coming to the game,” Wade said, “so it was just to have an opportunity to have a moment with him.”
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Shazier, a Lauderdale Lakes native and Plantation High School alumnus, sat in one of the front rows in Miami, wearing a pink Wade jersey. When the final whistle blew, Wade sought out Shazier to give him the jersey he wore for the Heat (32-36) against the Bucks (52-17) on Friday.
Shazier, who was a two-time Pro Bowler before the career-threatening injury, has been cited as an inspiration for athletes across the sports world. In a Monday Night Football game in 2017, Shazier suffered a severe spinal injury on a head-first tackle, which left him temporarily paralyzed. Last year at the NFL Draft, Shazier gingerly walked across the stage to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick in Arlington, Texas. Although he missed the entire 2018 season, Shazier reportedly began jogging in the fall.
For Wade, it was an honor to honor Shazier.
“I just wanted to continue to further the conversation,” Wade said. “As an athlete and as a human being, I just told him, ‘Thank you for inspiring everyone with his courage to never give up, not give up.’ So obviously I’m appreciative of what he stands for and what he’s done, and it was just a token of my appreciation.”