NBA 2018/19: A look at Dwyane Wade's Legacy as the Farewell Tour Concludes
As the 2019 NBA schedule rolls into April, we come to not only the end of another exciting and awe-inspiring season but to the end of a historic and memorable career as well.
After Kobe Bryant did it a few years earlier, following this last stretch of games, and possibly one final playoff run, Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade will hang up the sneakers and say goodbye to the game he’s played all his life and to which he has left a lasting impact.
The final stops in the farewell tour are upon us, jerseys are being exchanged, and Wade will give it his all one last time for both the game and the fans.
However, like Kobe, before he rides off into the sunset and enters the NBA, it’s only fitting that we all look back on and commemorate what has been an extraordinary and impactful career.
Coming out of college at Marquette University where from 2001-2003 he was the team’s leading scorer and helped them to one of their best regular season records in school history and first Conference USA title, Wade was selected fifth overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft, sharing the spotlight with the likes of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
He would join a youthful squad in Miami whose offensive production resulted in losing seasons the two years prior, but for Wade that wasn’t an issue as he quickly brought that production to American Airlines Arena.
In his rookie season, Wade would go on to average 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 46.5%. With that type of offensive prowess, the Heat would finish the 2003-2004 season with a 42-40 record and qualify for the NBA Playoffs where they made it to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and gave the 61-win Indiana Pacers a run for their money.
Wade would also finish his rookie season with a unanimous selection to 2004 NBA All-Rookie Team and a top-five ranking among rookies for several statistical categories
Miami’s successes with Wade were only amplified in the following season as he continued to improve his overall stats and now had a juggernaut center in Shaquille O’Neal to help carry the load.
The duo would come in and rack up the Eastern Conference-best 59 wins that season and lead Miami down another deep playoff run that included two series sweeps of the New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards.
One of Wade’s most memorable seasons in his 16-year career would have to be the 2005-2006 season, where he would get his first taste of the NBA Finals and begin to solidify his legacy with the Miami Heat and in the NBA.
Despite having to overcome numerous physical health obstacles throughout the season, Wade continued to improve his offensive stats and shine in the regular and postseason. He averaged 27.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game that year and was named a starter for the first time in the 2006 All-Star Game.
Nothing would stop Wade and Shaq from leading the Heat to the promised land, as after a battle with the flu and two difficult playoff series, the team made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in their short history and defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.
Throughout the six-game series, Wade played the best basketball of his career, racking up over 30 points in three straight games and leading the team back from an 0-2 deficit in the series.
For the first time, the Miami Heat were NBA champions and Dwayne Wade was an NBA Finals MVP.
The following seasons from 2008 to 2010 would have their ups and downs for Wade and the Heat, but in the summer of 2010 everything changed, and Wade would no longer be known for just resurrecting a team, but also for helping to create a dynasty in Miami.
That offseason, the Heat would make two of their most memorable offseason acquisitions ever.
Within days of each other, former Toronto Raptor star Chris Bosh came to the Heat via a sign and trade deal and Lebron James, Wade’s friend and the No. 1 pick from the 2003 draft, decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and his hometown to play in Miami.
Together, Wade and his two new teammates would form what was then infamously known as the “Big 3” and arguably a precursor to the super-team which has become a big trend with some of the NBA’s best teams today.
Although he would have to share the spotlight with Lebron James, unlike most star players this didn’t bother Wade and the two become one of the most memorable duos in basketball. Even with considering himself the No. 2 guy for the Heat, Wade would still average over double-digit points per game and his assist stats would remain high thanks to all fancy passing and lobs for baskets with James.
Soon a lot of NBA players wanted to get onto the Miami roster to play with this team because they could see something powerful coming from it. Unsurprisingly, something phenomenal did happen, as Wade, James, and Bosh would dominate the Eastern Conference for their straight years together, each ending with a trip to the NBA Finals and two of the four were back to back titles.
In accordance with the old saying “all good things must come to an end”, the Big 3 would break up following the 2013-2014 with James deciding to return home to Cleveland to fulfill his promise to the Cavs faithful. Wade and Bosh would return but soon after, Bosh had medical difficulties forcing him to retire.
Now being the only man left of the Big 3, Dwayne Wade returned to the top of the totem pole as the Heat’s main guy but that would not last very long as the two sides would experience their one and only taint in their relationship.
Following disagreements with the organization over his contract heading into the 2016-2017 season, and seeing the opportunity to play with his home town team, Wade would decide to leave Miami to join the Chicago Bulls.
Despite being back home in Chicago, the homecoming wouldn’t be so pleasant for Wade as there were teammate issues, injury woes, and an early exit from the NBA Playoffs. The Bulls would buy Wade out and he would again join forces with LeBron James, but this time in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.
Once again, Wade would see a short stint with another team as he and the coaching staff didn’t see eye-to-eye on the plans for him.
Although it felt like what happened in these two short stints would be to Wade’s advantage, as he would end up going back to where it all started, to the place where he was meant to be, to the team that really defined his incredible career.
Wade would be able to reconcile himself to the team that first took a chance him, even though they welcomed him home with open arms, in 2018 as the Cavaliers would ship him to Miami in exchange for a 2024 draft pick.
For Wade and the Heat fans, it felt as if he never left and right away American Airlines Arena was back to being crowded with Dwayne Wade jerseys and supporting their hero.
Now, in his sixteenth season, Wade has announced his intentions to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 season, what he is calling his “Farewell Tour”. He might be busy taking it all in—the final visits to all the arenas across the NBA, the love and support of Heat and NBA fans everywhere, the numerous thank you’s, commemorative videos, and jersey signings—but Wade is making sure he continues to give it his all one last time and goes out with a bang not just for himself but all those who’ve gotten him to where he is today.
Although his performance on the basketball court and championship background is deserving of praise and admiration, what’s made Dwyane Wade’s career so memorable and unique is his unselfish approach to the game and the lesson he provides of “team before me”.
During his years with Lebron James, Wade could have been one of those superstar athletes who didn’t want the love and attention that he created in Miami leaning towards anyone else and pulled a complaint to Heat brass to avoid signing James. However, he would decide to go the alternate route, welcoming James to the team and showing his willingness to work together to bring the organization a championship.
When it became obvious that Lebron was going to be something special in Miami, Wade was completely okay with the idea of taking a step back and letting James have some of the spotlight while being his sidekick. Wade knew that the Heat would always be his team first, but he didn’t let his ego get in the way of the betterment of the team and allowed Lebron his opportunities to shine.
Perhaps, this is what made the Miami Heat such a spectacular sight for the four years of the Big 3 dynasty.
Regardless of whether he gets that one last opportunity to pursue another NBA championship, there is little doubting that Dwayne Wade’s career has been one of the most influential in recent NBA history.
What he did for the Miami Heat coming out of college, a team founded in the late 1980s that was looking to make a name for themselves, and all that he accomplished throughout his sixteen-year journey are truly unforgettable and it sets a standard for many future players to come.
A three-time NBA champion with one NBA Finals MVP, one NBA scoring title, thirteen All-Star appearances, numerous Olympic medals with Team USA, and all-time records for the Heat in several categories, amongst other great accomplishments, there is nothing a basketball fan can’t enjoy about watching Wade play.
I’m sure that as it was for those who saw the legendary careers of guys like Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it will be difficult to see stars like Dwyane Wade, who so many of the youth today have grown up idealizing, step away from the game of basketball and move on to the next stage of their lives.
Sometimes there are players that leave lasting legacies, moments that stick with us forever, and metaphorical big shoes that are almost impossible to fill and nobody knows if a player of that caliber will rise to the occasion in the future.
One thing is for certain, nobody will be forgetting the legacy of Dwyane Wade anytime soon, whether they have a fandom in the Miami Heat or not.
There’s still a few more rodeos left on the schedule and a few more games left in the tank, but when it’s all said and done and Wade removes that Miami Heat jersey for the very last time, rest assured knowing that he won’t be leaving the NBA for good without first hearing nothing but “Thank You”.
Enjoy the last dance, D Wade.