When basketball transcended sport: Dwyane Wade's tribute to Joaquin Oliver
On February 14th, 2018, seventeen people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. It was and still is the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history. This came at a time when a large part of the population was demanding for better gun control.
In a parallel universe, Dwyane Wade had announced his return to the Miami Heat. After spells at Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, he was finally coming back home. This was a joyous moment for every Miami Heat fan as "Flash" was back.
Wade announced his return on February eighth and the shooting happened on February 14th. Slowly all the smiles turned into tears. Miami was shaken. After all, ten grown men running around to try to get a ball in a hoop seemed insignificant to children losing their lives.
One of the students who was killed in the shooting was Joaquin Oliver, a huge Dwyane Wade fan. He was ecstatic to hear about Wade coming back to Miami.
In an interview with Univision, Oliver's dad mentioned how excited the 17-year-old was when Wade re-signed with the Heat.
"Dad, guess who's coming back? Guess who's coming home?" Oliver's dad recalled him saying. "Wade is coming back. I need that jersey!"
Unfortunately, he never got his hand on the new Miami Heat vice jersey. He was eventually buried in his old Dwyane Wade jersey. Lots of people attended the funeral wearing Miami heat jerseys as a tribute to the Oliver.
When Wade heard about this he was emotional, to say the least. He visited and met Olivers family to give his condolences. He also dedicated the rest of the season to Oliver.
On February 28th the Heat played the Sixers. Wade had 'Joaquin Oliver' etched on his shoe. What followed was vintage Wade.
Wade had one of the best games of the season that day. He dropped 27 points that night which included a game-winner on Ben Simmons. He led the Heat to victory that game by beating the Sixers, 102-101.
In the grand scheme of things this did not change much, but for that brief moment, it changed everything. That one night Miami was happy. In the torrid times, Miami needed a hero and Wade was that hero that night. He brought joy back to Miami even if for that brief moment. What made this special was that he did all this while having Joaquin Oliver etched on his shoes.
The next day life went on. Nothing had changed. To be honest, nothing can change what happened.
In basketball, we always talk about the "Mamba Mentality". It is the need and urge and desire to do anything to win. While it is great, but it is not the reason why we love the sport. It isn't a victory but it is the unity which sport can create which made us fall in love with it. We may have different opinions and lives but we are united by our love for the game.
There is an argument that sport is not a need. The world can survive without sports. I agree. There are more important jobs in the world. Having said that the world won't be as happy if there was no sport.
We need sports so that we can look forward to something every week. We need sport because we want to be part of something that is larger than us individually. We need sport because it can bring us hope and joy in the darkest of moments.