Greg Cote

Dwyane Wade’s play-or-retire decision is no-lose and should leave Heat fans grateful

Dwyane Wade is the most accomplished athlete in South Florida sports history, the fulcrum of three Miami Heat championships.

He is the most beloved star we have had — even with those late-career detours to Chicago and Cleveland — and only the Dolphins’ Dan Marino is in his company.

Wade has given us 13 1/2 seasons of his 15-year NBA career.

Our turn now to give him all the time he needs to decide if he’s done.

I have seen and heard increasing blowback against Wade for his elongated delay in deciding (or at least revealing) his intentions. He will return to the Heat for what likely would be a final season, a farewell tour of sorts. Or he will retire from basketball.

While we immerse into football season, what Wade decides will shape the team and sport that have filled Biscayne Boulevard with our three most recent championship parades.

It is an enormous and emotional decision, and I don’t blame Wade for the weighing and the delaying.

As he said recently, “Whether I’m playing this year or not, I will be prepared to play.”

Have you seen any of the training and workout videos he posts on social media? At 36 (37 in January), he seems in excellent shape. No evidence of sloth, of coasting.

There is a Heat roster spot waiting for Wade, along with a one-year, $5.3 million contract, the luxury-tax exception. Miami has made clear it wants him back. Wade has made clear it will be Heat-or-retire — no golden parachute in China, no flight west to join LeBron in L.A. “Heat only,” he said recently.

I believe quite strongly Wade will return for another season.

Why the delay then? Wade enjoys the suspense, the growing attention on his decision.

I am also told by representatives of the club and of the player that Wade being comfortable with his role is critical. He returned last midseason in a bench role, a reserve in all 21 games. He also came off the bench in all five playoffs games. (It would have been four playoff games, but Wade scored 28 points in 26 minutes to give Miami its only postseason win, reminding us what he still is capable of at least in bursts).

I have not been told Wade would demand to start. But does he see himself good for more than 25 minutes a game? He mentioned recently that he embraces a mentor’s role for the club’s many young guys still developing, “but you also want to play,” he added. A significant addendum, I thought.

Wade cannot lose with whichever decision he makes.

Returning to the Heat would make it a 2018-19 Adulation Tour, leaguewide, not just in Miami. His Li-Ning shoe brand in China also is better grown with him as an active NBA player. And it would be a final season (likely) with his brother Udonis Haslem, the Heat Lifer who just re-signed for a 16th season.

If Wade retires he heads straight for the Basketball Hall of Fame. And he enjoys more time with his wife Gabrielle Union, the actress, and their kids, the eldest of whom plays high school ball now.

His health, a wonderful family, nothing left to prove professionally — that makes for an enviable situation, a no-lose decision.

I do understand fans getting antsy, though.

Club president Pat Riley originally said he hoped for a Wade decision by mid-August. When that came and went he called Labor Day “sort of the drop-dead date for players.” That was Sept. 3.

My prediction? Wade makes his decision in time to appear at the team’s annual preseason Media Day on Sept. 24. After that it starts in a flurry. A week’s training camp, then the first preseason game Sept. 30, and then the real season commencing Oct. 17.

Meanwhile Miami fans wait to know if they’ll have Dwyane Wade for another season, or if it will be thanks for the memories, for the greatest professional sports career we’ve seen down here.

That’s no-lose for us, too.

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