The Miami Heat are a team who have had their ups and downs through the years. Since the NBA expanded in 1987 they have had quite a mixture of brilliant success and woeful failure. From finishing bottom of the Eastern conference in the 2007-2008 season, to winning back-to-back titles only six years later, Heat fans have been through a lot.
Several franchises of a similar age are yet to win championships but coaches like Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra paired with superstars like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have helped the team climb right to the top of the NBA in recent years.
In 2003, the NBA saw a draft class comprising some of the most exciting prospects the NBA has ever seen, including Dwyane Wade, a shooting guard out of Marquette. Draft night came and went, and with the fifth pick, the Miami Heat selected Wade as their chosen player of the future.
Heading in to the 2003-2004 season, LeBron James would start off as the standout rookie, proving himself the stud that scouts thought he would be. The world watched on in awe while a young Dwyane Wade proved himself in the shadows.
With 22 games to go in his rookie season, the Heat had a record of 25-35 and looked certain to miss the playoffs, but a strong effort by Wade and the rest of the Miami squad would see the Heat secure the fourth seed in the playoffs after winning 17 of their last 21 games. Wade proved he was more than just another shooting guard: he was a star of the future who thrived under pressure, something many players struggle to do. Unfortunately, the Heat exited the playoffs in the conference semi-finals, losing 4-2 to an Indiana Pacers team led by the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, and Jermaine O’Neal.
In the summer of 2010, draft classmate LeBron James would make a decision that shocked the basketball world. The Ohio-born-and-bred forward announced his intent to sign with the Miami Heat, leaving his home state to partner up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Florida. It was the start of an incredible era.
It was unknown how Wade and LeBron would link up. In their first season, the Heat finished with a record of 58-24, the second best in the Eastern Conference. They went on to secure the conference title and would lose 4-2 in the NBA finals to Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks.
Three fabulous years followed, during which Miami won two NBA titles and Wade secured an All-Star selection three consecutive times.
LeBron James rejoined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Chris Bosh had serious health issues and the incredible Heat dynasty was no more. In fact, the season after James left, the Heat finished with a record of 37-45, coming off the back of four straight Eastern conference titles.
Now, 37 years old and another four years later, Wade announced the 2018-2019 season would be his final one playing professional basketball in the NBA. With the tagline One Last Dance, Wade would do one last victory lap around the NBA, celebrating an incredible, Hall of Fame worthy career.
Nobody expected much from Wade this season. With the Heat roster boasting no other superstars, this could have been be a victory lap with little success for Wade.
Miami started its campaign with five wins in their first 10 games. In an Eastern Conference where most of the stars had moved out west, this was enough to put them in playoff contention. Of course, 10 games is not enough to give anyone an accurate idea of how good a team can be through a full season, but it was certainly a good start for the Heat.
Led by Wade, they are now battling it out for the eighth playoff seed, something which would be the perfect send-off for the fan favourite.
Wade has always been known for being clutch. In an exciting win over the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, who else would it be other than Wade to hit the game winning three ball? Blocked on his first attempt, Wade re-gathered the ball and banked in a fadeaway, one-legged, three-point jumpshot to win the game. A sign that quality never fades. A sign that Wade is an incredible talent who will be greatly missed in the NBA. Perhaps overlooked by some throughout his career, it is a sign that Wade’s talent is endless and timeless.
The jersey swaps have also become a big part of this season for Wade, trading jerseys with a player from the opposing team at the end of every game. Some of the more memorable jersey swaps include trading jerseys with Kevin Huerter, a young Atlanta Hawks rookie who grew up watching Wade and modelled his own game on the veteran, as well as Ryan Shazier, an NFL player and Florida native who’s life was put on hold due to a horrific potentially career ending spinal injury during the 2017-2018 season.
This year also marks 10 years since Wade became Miami’s top scorer and he has more than doubled his number since, adding to his ever growing total each game he plays for Miami. So far through the season, Wade is averaging 14.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He was a special addition to the All-Star Game alongside Dirk Nowitzki, who is also rumoured to be retiring at the end of this season. During the game, Wade managed to link up one last time with his friend and former teammate LeBron James. Their “One Last Lob” created a nostalgic moment for many NBA fans as James slammed down an alley-oop pass off the glass from Wade.
Wade’s “never give up” attitude has and always will be a huge motivator for many upcoming basketball players around the world. Proving himself as a role model and mentor to younger players, he is an inspiration to many and has gained international stardom because of it. A huge star in China, he regularly travels there for business and is widely respected in Asia. This attitude has never faded and he has shown the world how respectable he is this season with touching moments during and after games.
The One Last Dance we all knew would be emotional is turning out to be an exhilarating journey through a gruelling 82-game season that will end in one final playoff push for Wade. We are witnessing the writing of a story that NBA fans will never forget.