Lasting Legacy: Dwyane Wade’s Impact From The Outside

Commentary

Dwyane Wade’s final home game was on a rainy evening in Miami, which perfectly encapsulated my feelings about his final game in the city that has become his family; the arena that has become his home.

Since I am not from Miami, I can only feel so much of what he means to the city. I have a limited viewpoint of his impact in that regard. At the same time, I do relate to him in that aspect. Ever since I began watching the Heat, Miami kind of feels like my adopted city, too.

So many sports legends exist in my mind in a different category of human being, but not Wade. The way he plays the game feels real and honest, if that makes sense. I have never met Wade, but I get the impression that the way he is on the court is an extension of who he is off of it, not another persona. His story feels relatable and imperfect in all of the best ways.

I was drawn to Wade’s game because of his sacrifice and willingness to help others, which ultimately extended far off the court. While he doesn’t know it, he has helped me as well.

Throughout my time watching the Wade, I have struggled with friendships, lost my dad and dealt with anxiety and depression. Through those years, the one consistent for me was sports, specifically the Heat. As simple as it may sound, some of those difficult days became a little easier knowing that I could spend a few hours watching a team and player that I love. Obviously, not every game was a win, but it set my mind free.

As soon as I saw Wade’s One Last Dance video before the season, I ordered tickets for his final home game. My family takes a trip to Florida every year, and it just so happened that the game was a few days after we would normally leave to go home. Instead, we extended our trip a bit longer. My mom, brother and I drove to Miami for a few days, ending with Wade’s last game. It was worth every moment and dime spent.

It wasn’t until I walked into American Airlines Arena for that final game that it hit me: My experience consuming basketball is going to change. From the moment I stepped foot in the door, it was all Wade everything, as it should have been. Miami sent him out right. As an ‘outsider,’ I felt as much a part of Wade’s impact that night as I can imagine anyone did.

I got that same feeling as I watched his final career game Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, as Wade and Udonis Haslem started together one last time. Fast-forward to Wade getting his fifth career triple-double off of an assist to Haslem — it felt surreal. No one could write an ending much better than that.

As a latecomer to watching the NBA, my experience of professional basketball has always revolved around Wade and the Heat. He has been kind of like the sun in my NBA solar system. Watching the league is going to be a little dimmer without him, at least for a while.

Wade is the reason that I fell in love with sports and watching him play in his final home game made my NBA experience come full circle. Will I continue to watch, analyze, and love the Heat and the NBA? Of course. However, without Wade, Miami feels a little different to me as a non-native. Then again, I’m sure it does to anyone, anywhere who grew up watching him as well.

Regardless, the moment he jumped up on the scorer’s table and said, “Wade County, I love you,” I didn’t feel like that outsider looking in. It felt like a part of me would always be there, right where everything came full circle.

As I left for the airport to fly back home to Michigan Wednesday morning, I thought about how different it will be next time I come to Miami for a game. Yes, I won’t see No. 3 on the court; I won’t hear Wade’s name yelled up to the rafters; he probably won’t be at American Airlines Arena. However, my memories of him will be — and the legacy of those will last forever.


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