Dwyane Wade Made It Cool To Be A Miami Heat Fan
Commentary // 6 months ago
By: Azam Masood
“Rebound O’Neal, coming up short. Horry for the win….”
Wait. This is supposed to be another in a long line of Dwyane Wade tribute pieces, isn’t it? Stick with me for a second.
That famous Robert Horry play was back in 2002, and I was in a room full of people. After the initial shock of the shot, I started bawling.
I HATED the Lakers. I hated them so much that I legitimately refused to believe that the greatest Heat player I could remember at the time, Eddie Jones, ever played for them (I had AOL dial-up; these things weren’t so easy to look up then).
Of course, the franchise had some good times and better players in the 90s, but I was too young, mercifully spared from even remembering what I was doing, when Allan Houston lofted that ludicrous floater that sunk what should’ve been a title contender.
By the early aughts, no one out there was repping the Heat. Kids from my elementary school latched on to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, and they couldn’t comprehend why I supported a bad team. I was brought up a traditionalist: I was born in South Florida, so all of my favorite teams should be from South Florida.
Fast forward to 2003. Everyone rightfully praises the memorable group that overcame an 0-7 start to make the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Shaq comes along not long after, and a 6-foot-4 guard named Dwyane Wade makes the leap from not-Carmelo or LeBron to stardom.
Suddenly, racks upon racks of Wade jerseys were found in every department store. Casuals and hardcore fans alike sought out the freshest Dwyane Wade Myspace backgrounds, and, somehow, the Heat won a championship in ‘06 following a devastating loss to Detroit in the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals after Wade strained a rib muscle up 3-2 (seriously, sports have never made me sadder than ‘05, and that’s saying something).
It didn’t matter much that the Heat meandered their next few seasons after the title with a couple of first-round exits and one tank job gone wrong. Wade was a singular force, must-watch TV. Sixteen-year old me once left a wedding to find a TV in the hotel lobby that had on Heat-Suns, a run-of-the-mill regular season matchup. Wade drops 43 points and 6 assists with a 73.4 true shooting percentage and delivers a comfortable 107-92 win on the road that a team coming off a 15-67 season had no business winning. All-NBA defender Raja Bell and old pal Shaq in the middle, it didn’t matter.
I wore an oversized Wade Miami Floridians jersey at least once a week. That was the shield. The awkward Indian kid’s refuge from stereotypes. Dunking on Emeka Okafor in crunch time, blocking Brook Lopez (twice!), bleeding his way to a 24-point fourth quarter against the hated Knicks, winning the first scoring title in franchise history. There was always something to talk about at the pavilions in high school.
Following an unhealthy amount of perspiration, two more titles. It didn’t matter that the other guy left soon after (I mean, it MATTERED, but stay with me). We #Lifer’d our way through the next few seasons.
Then, he leaves. 11-30 + 30-11. A decent, unspectacular start to 2017-18.
Then, he’s traded back.
At this stage, I’m something resembling an adult. “Cool” doesn’t necessarily carry the same weight anymore, nor am I even calibrated towards the pulse of the youth. But the buzz on February 8th, 2018 was palpable. Meandering became must-watch again.
When Draymond told a so-called Truth teller, “You thought you was Kobe?”, I wondered if that barb would indirectly apply to Dwyane, as well.
How cool that I was so titanically wrong?