Miami Heat

Heat fans share gratitude, sadness over departure of No. 3

Dwyane Wade fans flock to AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday for a tribute to the Miami icon, who decided to join the Bulls. All Wade items were $13 — for his 13 years here.
Dwyane Wade fans flock to AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday for a tribute to the Miami icon, who decided to join the Bulls. All Wade items were $13 — for his 13 years here.

As the Heat and Dwyane Wade part ways, fans around Miami share memories about the 12-time All-Star and what he meant to them:

▪ Siblings Rafael and Carla Marrero came to Miami from Cuba in 1998. Both are avid NBA followers.

When Rafael, 25, first began following the NBA, his team was the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. He still considers the Bulls to be his team of choice, but said he had instant respect for Wade when the Heat selected him fifth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft.

“We don’t have the NBA in Cuba, so when I got here, I followed who was the best at the time,” Rafael said. “But when Dwyane got here, I became not only a Heat fan, but a Dwyane fan. I wanted him to stay here [with the Heat] but as a Bulls fan, I’m happy.”

Carla, 21, who started following the Heat in 2006, added: “I was shocked, but I’m happy for him. He’s going home. I feel he wasn’t given the respect and gratitude he deserved. He was a team player. When LeBron [James] was here, [Wade] let him have the spotlight. He was a team player.”

▪ David Carballosa, 22, was born and raised in Miami and grew up following the Heat. He said he was upset about Wade’s decision.

“I’m sure he wanted to retire with the Heat,” Carballosa said, “but the whole legacy that he built, that’s what I’ll remember.”

Carballosa said the four years of the Big 3 Era, during which the Heat went to four NBA Finals and won two titles, are the highlight of Wade’s time in Miami to him.

“If it wasn’t for him, the Heat wouldn’t have won three championships,” Carballosa said. “If it wasn’t for him, LeBron wouldn’t have come here.”

▪ Barbara Venzen, 46, understands why Wade opted to leave for the Bulls.

“There’s a lot of factors to consider,” Venzen said. “There was the approach by the organization. Also, the fact that he’s a Chicago boy, so that’s home for him.”

Her favorite Wade moment?

His running, fade-away, three-point, buzzer-beater against the Bulls on March 9, 2009, which capped a 130-127, double-overtime win. After the ball swished through the net, Wade (48 points, 12 assists) sprinted around the AmericanAirlines Arena court, looked straight at the crowd and shouted “this is my house” while pointing to the arena floor.

“How ironic [that it was against the Bulls],” she said. “That showed the passion, the [undeniable] love for the game, the resiliency and heart [Wade has]. But it wasn’t just that game. He brought that with him every game.”

▪ Raffi Sarmiento said he wouldn’t forget Wade’s impact in the 2006 NBA Finals.

Down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series against the Dallas Mavericks, Wade led the Heat to four consecutive wins and the franchise’s first NBA championship.

When Wade corralled the final rebound in Game 6 to seal a 95-92 victory, Wade held on to the ball for a moment before launching it straight up in the air and celebrating with his teammates — a moment Sarmiento, 20, said he’ll never be able to shake.

“He really wanted it,” Sarmiento said. “For them to come back and for him to get the ring, it was incredible.”

With Wade leaving, Sarmiento said he’s still not sure who on the team can replace him, both as a player and a leader.

“I still don’t see a player on the team strong enough,” he said.

As hundreds of fans swept through the arena’s Heat store Friday as the team honored Dwyane Wade and sold Wade merchandise for $13, most had the same thought: The Heat’s front office in general, and president Pat Riley in particular, did not priori

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