Agree or disagree with the move, it’s a sad day in South Florida as Dwyane Wade leaves from his career as a Miami Heat basketball player to the Chicago Bulls to (probably) end his career in a couple of years.
Understanding how it came for the face of the franchise and local icon to end his career elsewhere is something that will only be truly known over time, if ever.
What’s clear is that the man who rivaled (or in some opinions, surpassed) Dan Marino as the greatest sports figure in South Florida history is gone.
I grew up in the Don Shula era of the Miami Dolphins and for me, he will always represent the greatest era of South Florida sports (even though the Dolphins won less championships than the Heat).
But Shula wasn’t a player. As much as I idolized my all-time favorite Dolphin, Paul Warfield, there is no denying that Dan Marino was our local sports icon. Heck, even national icon.
Eventually, we got a basketball team, a baseball team and a hockey team. The hockey team never won consistently enough to build anyone iconic. The baseball team never kept anyone around long enough to become iconic.
Ah, but the basketball team. They imported a control freak legend to coach and run the organization. Pat Riley didn’t take long to turn the team into a contender and then a champion.
That championship was decided by one of the finest performances by a single player in NBA Finals history. Thus, the legend of Dwyane Wade began.
His close friendship with LeBron James paved the way for the “Big 3” era in Miami, propelling the Heat to four consecutive finals and back-to-back championships.
LeBron left, as he came, in free agency. The team suffered for the loss, both in surprise and in talent. Riley struggled to rebuild a competitive team only to be hit with two consecutive years of stunning blood clot-related early departures from star Chris Bosh.
Wade carried the team for both those years, even rejuvenating his health to play in a recent high 74 games and some remarkable playoff performances.
Money and ego. The player and the management will point at each other. Bottom line, South Florida loses a sports icon, Riley loses some sheen on his public image and Wade loses the claim to the love and affection that led to “Wade County”.
No way this should have happened. No Wade.