There are certain times in sports where the retirement of a player can seem to be the biggest story of the sport in its entirety. The retirements of Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant in recent memory brought huge farewell tours and press coverage. To little surprise, when Dwyane Wade announced at the outset of the 2018 NBA Season that it would be his last, the NBA braced, and thus ensued One Last Dance.
Wade captivated the sports world for 16 season amazing seasons. Over a dozen All-Star appearances, 8 NBA-All Team, gold medals in the Olympics but not mention the three coveted rings he brought to the Miami Heat organization. His play in the 2006 NBA Finals cemented his place as a star for the rest of his career. Trailing the Mavericks 0-2 in the Finals, D-Wade averaged 39.5 points per game to carry the Heat to a championship at age 24.
But there was more to this man than his basketball skills. For the last 16 years, Miami has been known as “Wade County”, and for good reason.
In 2010 at the start of free agency, lawmakers in Miami officially renamed Miami-Dade County to “Miami-Wade County” in an effort to get the superstar to remain in South Beach. Their efforts proved successful as he stayed and lured superstars Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join the team too. A dynasty ensued as the Heat made four straight Finals, a franchise-record that likely will never be broken.
The four-year dynasty ended due to James’ departure in 2014. However, Heat fans cherished every second of the Big 3.
Given that both James and Wade came into the NBA together in 2003. They appeared on All-Star teams and played on Team USA together. People knew they were close, but not “best-friend” close.
South Beach offered both players an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. And boom, one of the greatest basketball dynasties of this generation emerged out of nowhere.
Wade’s career started out rocky at Marquette. He had two invasive knee surgeries that restricted him on the floor even before his NBA career started. However, Pat Riley knew that he was special. He knew that he had found a Heat “lifer”, a member of the Heat for life.
And even though Flash spent a season and a half away from home, when he returned, they embraced him like he never left. There was never bad blood for Wade leaving, only hope that he would return for one last dance.
The NBA was lucky to have a talent as special as Wade both on and off the court. Yet, more importantly, the Miami community was lucky.
In 2018 in Parkland, Florida, Stoneman Douglas High School suffered heartache. This event hit home especially hard for the whole world not to mention Wade.
Joaquin Oliver lost his life that tragic day. He was an admirer of D-Wade. Joaquin’s family chose to bury their son in Wade’s jersey. Thus, exemplifying how beautiful and significant of an affect an athlete can have on someone.
D-Wade, you played with passion, class and swagger. You helped deliver the city of Miami three amazing championships. You are not only the most impactful athlete in Miami Sports history, you are arguably the most impactful person in Miami history in general. There will never be another quite like you. Dade County will always be Wade County.
G-d Speed, Dwyane.