“With the fifth pick, in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat select Dwyane Wade.”
Our story began when ex-commissioner David Stern uttered that very sentence nearly fifteen years ago, and man does it make me feel old to even say that out loud. A nine-year-old at the time, I, along with many in Heat Nation, instantly had this unexplainable ray of hope I’d never felt about this team before. The kid from Marquette – that one who put up a triple-double vs. Kentucky to will his team to the Final Four – that guy was going to do that for us, too. I still remember my dad flying back home from a business trip late that night. He came in to wake me up, only I was already up and wired with excitement. “How could I go to sleep, Dad?! We got Dwyane Wade!”
13 seasons, 3 championships, 5 finals appearances, and 12 all-star games later, it’s safe to say Mr. Wade didn’t disappoint. He took our minds off of the frustratingly-mediocre Dolphins, the constantly-payroll-slashing Marlins, and that bottom-feeding hockey team none of us cared too much about in the first place. He was our guy, the next Dan Marino, except better; he was unquestionably the most beloved athlete in Miami history.
And then, in a crazy twist of events, the self-proclaimed “Heat lifer” left us.
It was my 23rd birthday, of all days, and I was at dinner with my dad on our annual trip to Vegas. Mid-conversation, I saw Dwyane’s name come across my twitter timeline. We all knew he and Pat Riley were having some frosty negotiations, but no way he’d leave us, right? Sports are sports, but Dwyane was different. He was Miami.
My jaw dropped. Dwyane Wade. 2 years. $45 million. Chicago Bulls. Done deal. “Holy f***ing s**t,” I told my dad. “It must have been that bad.” We sat there the rest of the dinner, reflecting on his 13 years in Miami, and rationalizing that we would never have been able to compete for titles with an aging superstar making 20+ million in a salary-cap driven sport anyway. We nearly even talked our way into feeling like it was the right direction for the franchise, and that Riley knows best. “What’s the point of running it back with a team who has no hope of winning a title”, we said. “This had to be done.”
That may have been true, but even as we all watched this young, fun cast of misfits surprise the league the past year and a half, something was missing. Quite frankly, Miami Heat basketball just didn’t feel the same.
And this is why what happened during Thursday’s trade deadline was one of the best moments in Miami sports history.
A 24-year old now, I sat in my team’s office room at work, prepared to lead my manager through a testing approach I was waiting to pitch to her all day. Nonchalantly, I glanced down at my phone, if only out of habit. 12 texts. “12 texts?,” I thought to myself, confused. I had just checked my phone 3 minutes ago.
You know those moments when you know something big happened, only, for a split second, you don’t yet know what it is? That was me in this moment until I saw the three words we all thought we’d never see again: “Dwyane is back!!”
I couldn’t believe it – and even refused to let myself believe it. Dwyane coming back midseason wasn’t even on my radar of possibilities. It almost had to be true, only it seemed too good to be a reality.
After collecting myself, checking Twitter, and confirming it with my own two eyes, it set in. It didn’t take long for me to announce this to my work team, and man, I damn near destroyed everyone’s productivity for the rest of the day. Basketball fans or not, we were all Miami fans, and our guy was back in our city. Many of my colleagues bought Heat tickets on the spot. The energy in the room is like nothing I’ve experienced in a work setting.
Look, we all know Father Prime is far past it. His 3-point performance on 1-6 shooting in the #R3TURN evidences that.
But the thing is, none of that matters. This was about more than sports.
It was about seeing a story to its end.
Welcome home, Dwyane.