‘It was great to be able to end that last one with my brother,’ says Wade on playing with Udonis Haslem
On the remarkable night when the Miami Heat got eliminated from playoff contention and not even the most diehard fans seemed to care, Dwyane Wade, the Heat organization and Wade’s loyal, loving fans showed the world how to fashion the perfect farewell. Goodbyes are hard, but this one was floating on a cloud of gratitude and appreciation.
It was a symphony of perfect notes befitting a 16-year Hall of Fame career that delivered to Miami three NBA championship parades along Biscayne Boulevard. Pat Riley imagined them. No. 3 made them real.
A flourish of the right touches, minting memories. The pregame ceremony’s warm embrace. A father and son hugging at midcourt. Wade’s dunk opening the scoring and his 30-points ending the night righgt. The last time on a court with his brother Udonis Haslem. Wade, showing up for his last postgame interview in his home arena wearing a red suit and holding his 5-month daughter, also in red.
What’s next, Dwyane?
“A little father time.”
Father Time didn’t retire Dwyane Wade, by the way. He went out on his terms, on his clock, still playing at a high level until the end.
Even the couple of awkward moments Tuesday night were charming.
Wade after shooting accidentally falls backward into courtside fan John Legend, spilling beer all over the singer. Legend on Legend crime. But it left both stars smiling.
After the game — nobody left, the arena remained packed — Wade leaped up onto the scorer’s table one last time to pound his chest and soak in the ovation. Except he stumbled before finally stepping up onto the table.
“It was three leaps. I wanted to go out with the number three,” he kidded, addressing a huge media throng. “See how I turned a negative into a positive?”
Wade, saying, “I couldn’t have asked for a better ending,” mostly kept his emotions in check in his final home game, but admitted the finality of it hit him earlier in the day, at home.
“I had a moment to myself. I thanked the man above for this opportunity,” he said. “I might have got a little wet in the eyes, but no one saw.”
Dare say Heat fans have had and will have private moments of their own. Moments of thanks and eyes welling.
It feels wrong, or at least too soon, to shift to “what’s next?” Wade’s epic career deserves time to marinate, resonate and be remembered with a smile. The parade of memories, from draft night 2003 to this heartfelt last week, form a parade bigger than even those three celebrations along Biscayne.
“What’s next?” is unavoidable, though. “Who’s next? is a question even better.
The void Wade leaves is enormous, and it is palpable.
There is a now a crater on Miami’s professional team sports landscape.
There is no one to fill it, no one to replace him.
We have no stars now. We have none left.
With the Heat season ending in Brooklyn on Wednesday night and Wade now officially retired from basketball, we are missing anybody with that rarest combination of excellence, being beloved by fans and enjoying stature beyond this market. Nobody with what is hard to define but you know it when you see it: Star power. Another word for it: Transcendence.
We are bereft of that now. We have seldom if ever been so collectively light on players who unequivocally are star-caliber.
The Heat has a handful of solid players but no stars now, let alone of the super variety.
Giancarlo Stanton or Christian Yelich might have grown into something big here, but the Marlins traded away all who mattered.
Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov at 23 is a budding superstar in hockey, but until he lifts his franchise into a winner and begins displaying his talents deep into the playoffs, he won’t resonate in South Florida outside of the orbit of Panthers fans.
The Dolphins? No candidates, Nada. Maybe it will be the next great quarterback they will be drafting, probably in 2020. That’s if they get one and if he’s all that — ifs as large as the doubts the Fins have earned from nearly 20 years of hardly mattering.
The reality of Dwyane Wade’s retirement packs a punch from every angle.
He leaves us with a deep sense of gratitude, with championships, and with memories that feel like family heirlooms.
But he takes from us the last player we had who was absolutely great at what he did, who was beloved, and who made an entire community proud he wore Miami’s name.
At one point during Tuesday’s pregame ceremony they dimmed the arena lights and asked fans to shine their smart-phone lights. It looked like a constellation of stars blanketing the place. Of course there was only one star shining that night, and now it has blinked out, but for the memory of how bright it once shone..
In Miami, The Last Star is gone.