Heat

Dwyane Wade’s Final Farewell

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Some fans have grown weary of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the league at this point.  There are video tributes for anyone who has ever played for a team on their return.  Countless games have a gimmick ceremony to drive ticket sales.  Most fans would be wary of a yearlong retirement tour, especially when a star like Dirk Nowitzki has quietly played coy all year.  However, not only has #OneLastDance been handled beautify, Dwyane Wade truly deserves the love.

The Early Years

The Miami Heat was a successful franchise in the early years after being purchased by Micky Arison.  He brought in Pat Riley as the coach and team president and brought in Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.  After this, the team fell apart the Heat missed the playoffs in 2002 and 2003.  Then magic happened.

Miami had the number five pick in the NBA Draft in 2003.  After the Pistons disrupted the top five by taking Darko Milicic at number two, the Heat landed the Marquette star shooting guard.  That summer also saw the arrival of Lamar Odom in free agency and Stan Van Gundy as Head Coach.  The impact of their star rookie and free agent acquisition was immense immediately.  They made the playoffs in Wade’s first season and made it to the second round before losing to the Indiana Pacers.

Championship Contention

Wade’s brilliance showed the Heat they had a special team, which led Pat Riley to make a move that would alter the entire league.  Goodbye Lamar Odom, hello Shaquille O’Neal.  This transaction made Miami one of the faces of the league, a place they would occupy for much of the next decade.  Wade’s ascendance with Shaq also provided him the first taste of true glory with an NBA title and Finals MVP in 2006.

The Big Three Era

Following this title win, Miami experienced some struggles for the next four seasons, including an abysmal 2008 season that ended with the league-worst record of 15-67. This season saw Wade miss extensive time due to injury, but this malaise did not last long.  Wade won the scoring title in 2009 and followed it up with the All-Star MVP in 2010.  The Heat made the playoffs in both of these seasons, bowing out in the first round.

The stretch from 2010 to 2014 is one of the most polarizing in the history of the league. This era was when Dwyane Wade helped recruit Lebron James and Chris Bosh to the team.  They reached four straight finals, adding two more championships to Wade’s resume.  Following Lebron’s return to Cleveland and Bosh’s alarming health concerns, Wade transitioned into the twilight of his career.  He spent a season with the Bulls and half a season reunited with James in Cleveland before returning to Miami via trade.  Coming home for Wade returned him to his beloved status with Heat Nation. They have been allowed to celebrate his career and how he made them a marquee franchise.

Wade is a first ballot Hall of Famer; no one will dispute that.  He and his Banana Boat brothers helped define the modern era of the NBA before the Warriors toppled it all. They showed the league that player movement and empowerment was possible.  Personality and activism became commonplace for a league that had struggled with casual fans since Michael Jordan left the Bulls.  Wade, along with James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul controlled their destinies, for better or worse.  The current state of free agency and player movement would not exist without their first steps forward.

Place in History

From an individual perspective, Wade places amongst a rare and talented few.  Wade is a three-time NBA Champion with five total finals appearances.  He has the aforementioned finals MVP and All-Star Game MVP.  Wade is a 13-time All-Star, eight times All NBA, two-time scoring champion and has a Gold and Bronze medal.

Furthermore, he will also retire as the Heat franchise leader in games played, minutes, points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, assists, steals and steals per game.  He is considered the second best shooting guard of his generation, behind only Kobe Bryant.  Fans of his team-friendly and more aesthetically pleasing game may have him ahead of Kobe.  He is in the top five all-time at his position, although current stars like Klay Thompson and James Harden will have arguments when their careers end.

 

In the end, Dwyane Wade is walking away with a little left in the tank.  That is okay, as for the bulk of his career he left it all on the court.  He changed the Miami Heat, and the NBA as a whole, forever.  His highlights and personality have entertained fans for nearly two decades.  So while we still can, reflect on the last dance.

 

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