His young admirers gathered before him at the Jose Marti gym in Miami, about a mile from the only place Dwyane Wade has ever called a professional basketball home. They all wore shirts with his No. 3 on the back — the number that Wade will now wear as he represents Chicago as the newest member of the Bulls.
“Relationships are very important,” he instructed them Saturday before his youth skills camp began for roughly 300 kids aged 7 to 18. “Make sure you make one new friend.”
Later, in the building’s aerobics room, Wade spoke for 25 minutes to a group of reporters.
It was clear, especially during those times when his eyes watered, he was still making peace with his relationship ending with the Miami Heat after 13 seasons.
There were some funny moments throughout the morning, such as when a camper made him smile by saying, “Thanks for leaving, bro. I’m a Chicago fan.”
But mostly, it still felt a little melancholy.
“As I’ve said multiple times, through the letter that I put out whether through the [few] seconds that I had on Live With Kelly or whether it’s through my Twitter account, whether it’s through my Snapchat, I’m just really thankful more so than anything,” Wade said to begin his conversation with the media. “There’s a lot of things that’s going to be said, that has been said but at the end of the day I’m just thankful. I’m thankful for the love, the opportunity that I’ve had in this city for 13 years to just create some unbelievable magic. That goes nowhere. That will be something that we will all have in common for many, many years down the line.”
Of course, if the Heat and Wade had more commonality during negotiations, he would still be with the Heat.
He addressed that, among other issues:
On his relationship with Pat Riley:
“There’s going to be a lot of stuff that’s said about me and Pat. First and foremost, I love Pat Riley. He’s been someone who has been a figurehead in my life since I got drafted here at 21. But at the same time, he has a job to do. He has a different hat to wear. That hat sometimes is not to be my best friend. That hat is to be the president of the organization, and to be a businessman. And it sucks. Because you love somebody so well, you guys love each other, but the business side comes out. You know? And we have to deal with that. I’m not saying we’ve hugged and cried and shared tears at this moment. But I love Pat. And I will always love Pat. And I know he feels the same way about me.”
On choosing Chicago, where he grew up:
“To go home and play with Chicago is something I’ve always dreamed of since I’ve been a little bitty kid. It’s cool to be able to make those kind of choices. You see [Kevin Durant] make a choice [to leave]. We’ve seen LeBron [James] make choices for himself. You get killed for it but at the end of the day, if you love the guy, the individual, then you’re happy that they’re able to make that choice and that they seem happy with the choice that they are making.”
On his emotions as fans and the Heat honored him Friday:
“I’m sitting there and I’m watching some of the stuff that’s going on TV and they start playing tribute videos and I assume that’s what it’s going to be like when I’m no longer on this Earth. That’s what it felt like. It felt like it really was the end of life. I guess, in a sense, it’s the end of life in Miami as of now. I was going through so many emotions. [On Friday] I drove by and saw the fan support. I drove by and saw what the Heat had did on the big screen outside. I heard of everything. I woke up in the morning and saw the paper when I was standing on the table, against the Bulls when I hit that shot, I read underneath and it says, ‘You’ll always have a key under that mat.’ Man, I choked up inside. This is not an easy time for me and my family at all.”
On if he is prepared to come to Miami as a visiting player:
“Absolutely not. That’s a long way away and I’m going to take my time to get there. I have nothing to compare it to really … I went to Milwaukee for the first time after I left college, great Final Four run. They introduced my name, everybody goes crazy, as soon as I get on that court, everybody starts booing me. I was at the free-throw line! They were like, ‘Boo!’ It threw me off. I think I might have shot an air-ball. I just know at the end of the day, I know that the fans in this city have supported, have loved, have hated moments too. It hasn’t been all perfect. I know that they respect what I have been able to accomplish [with] the Miami Heat, and my teammates, and I know they will show me that love. And if they boo me when the game starts, then they better watch what time of the game they are booing me.”
On how his family has handled this:
“How I’ve always done things — and I say I have Team Wade I always ask for advice — I have my wife, my kids … they’re my advisory board on big decisions. And I get all the feedback and I crunch it in my mind and I come up with a decision. So I talk to my kids, I talked to Zaire, being my oldest son, about this decision and really got a feed and a feel for what he felt and I take that into consideration. Of my three kids in the household, it’s probably mixed emotions. They’re just about to start high school, a new school here in Miami. My oldest son, he’s a rider — ‘Dad, wherever you go I go.’ My nephew, he’s a little iffy about it. He moved from Chicago to here, and now we’re going back.”
On where he takes that from here:
“It’s about me sitting down with him and letting him know, ‘We’re going to be together.’ Obviously, kids see what’s going on in that city as well. It can be a little scary, knowing that the crime rate is so high for youth. So that’s something we have to continue to share with them and try to let them learn how to move through life and let them know not to be scared to do that. And my youngest son, Zion, he’s going to have a lot of questions for me. He’s with his mom right now, but when he gets back, he’s going to have a lot of questions and I’m going to have to sit down and answer them. At the end of the day, they will understand that they will have to make decision for their families. And some decisions are hard as [expletive] to make, some are going to be easy. But as men of the house, they’re going to have to make tough decisions. But if they have support and love and people they believe in, everything is going to work out.”