Everybody has a favorite sports memory, a moment trapped in nostalgia that can come back so vividly that you can see every color, hear every noise, and feel the exact energy of the scene. For most Heat fans, that moment might be Ray Allen’s buzzer-beater to send the Heat into game seven against the Spurs, it might be LeBron’s “decision,” but for me, nothing will ever top the day Dwayne Wade became my sports hero.
I was eight years old when my mother took me and my brother to my first ever sporting event: a midseason Heat-Jazz game at American Airlines Arena. Up until this point of the season, the Heat were 8-19 and the Jazz were 15-14. The Heat were just two seasons removed from their championship in 2006 and had become the worst team in the league. At the end of the season, Miami finished with a league-worst 15 wins. Utah was in the midst of a resurgence led by all-star point guard Deron Williams.
At eight years old, none of this meant anything to me. I knew I loved the Heat, and that they won a couple of years ago. I was wearing the 2006 championship shirt my mom picked me up from Sports Authority to the game. The other thing I knew was that Dwayne Wade was Miami’s favorite athlete, and that night, he proved that he was mine t as well.
The game was tight throughout, and the Jazz came back to tie the game at 102 points with just ten seconds left. Dwayne Wade brought the ball to half court, where he calmly dribbled with his back to the basket. With five seconds left, Wade exploded to the left of Deron Williams. With three seconds left, Wade stops his dribble, and pumps, causing Williams to fly past him. Wade then steps into his shot and fires. The ball clanks off of the top of the front rim and hangs in the air for what felt like an eternity. Somehow, the ball finds its way into the bottom of the net.
At that moment, Dwayne Wade became a superhero to me for the rest of my life. I know for a fact that I am not alone in this feeling. Entering his final season into the NBA, Dwayne Wade will be met with overwhelming cheers during every game, but for Miami, it will mean even more.
Wade has been ever-present in the Miami sports scene. Even after he left for Chicago and Cleveland, there was always a sense that he was simply on a hiatus, and would soon return to Wade County. Since being drafted in 2003, Wade has become the face of the Heat. Wade brought 3 championships, including the organization’s first in 2006, where he earned finals MVP. Wade played a pivotal role in luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami, leading the team to back to back championships in 2012 and 2013.
While other stars (including Shaq and LeBron) were present with Wade during the team’s successes, there was never any doubt about who the main attraction was. In Wade’s own words, “This is my house.” Dwayne Wade made Miami a sports town for the first time in modern history. Outside of the Dolphins’ dominance in the early seventies, Miami has rarely seen victory. But the Wade-era made Miami love sports again.
Miami too often receives flack for being a bandwagon basketball fan base, but nothing is further from the truth. Through thick and thin, the city was buzzing with basketball fever all thanks to Dwayne Wade’s electrifying play. Wade always gave something for us to root for (even during the down of seasons), and made a trip to the American Airlines Arena worthwhile. Much like when I was eight, the post-LeBron era started out rough, but I still attended multiple games to see a star perform.
While known for being the Heat’s star man on the court, Wade became legendary to the City of Miami due to his reputation away from the game. Wade has been involved with several charities in Miami and has organized multiple events in support of the community. In 2016, D-Wade put together a six-mile bike ride, which saw police officers and community members coming together to participate in the ride to raise awareness for community safety and to promote peace. If you were unaware, Wade was playing in Chicago for the Bulls at the time of the event, but his unparalleled commitment to Miami brought him back to the sunshine state for the event.
More recently, Dwayne Wade was a huge supporter of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida. Wade met with students and donated thousands to the March For Our Lives. D-Wade commisioned an art exhibit that featured a mural of Joaquin Oliver, one of the murdered students who was buried in Wade’s jersey. Wade also created an ongoing scholarships named after the victims of the shooting.
Dwayne Wade does not just embody the Heat, he embodies the City of Miami. When Wade finishes his last dance in the American Airlines Arena, there will be an enormous hole in the Miami sports world. Fortunately for Heat fans, the memories we have of Wade will never be forgotten.