For Dwyane Wade, the night was more than a flashback to his glory days with the Miami Heat.
Sure, Wade hit the game-winner in the Heat’s 102-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, scoring 15 of Miami’s final 17 points. But this game, this performance, meant more. Because Wade was wearing sneakers on which he had written the name of Joaquin Oliver, one of 17 victims of the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Oliver was buried earlier this week in a Wade jersey.
“That they thought of me in that process, as something that he would have wanted, is mind-boggling,” Wade said.
Oliver’s funeral led to an emotional few days for the veteran star, as Wade took stock of his place in Miami and in the game.
“From the standpoint of away from the game of basketball, as I continue saying, just understanding how important we are as professionals,” Wade said after Tuesday’s game. “And for me, it’s just giving whatever I can to people who believe in me, and especially people who were happy about me coming back here [after the trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month], who embrace me the way that I only can dream of with me coming back home. So just paying some due respect to [Oliver] and his family tonight.”
Wade later singled out Oliver and Henry Thomas, who died in January and formerly was his agent.
“Joaquin Oliver and Henry Thomas thanks for being my angels tonite,” he wrote on Instagram.
Wade had dedicated his “return and the rest of this Miami Heat season” to Oliver, making Tuesday’s game even more meaningful.
His wife, Gabrielle Union, added her voice to the tribute, tweeting after the game, “I’m still shaking … South Florida needed this. Man. I’m tearing up for so many reasons and none basketball related. It’s bigger than basketball!”
Wade had previously used Oliver’s death in the Feb. 14 killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to again explain why athletes wouldn’t comply with Laura Ingraham’s advice that LeBron James just “shut up and dribble.”
“This is Joaquin Oliver. He was one of the 17 young lives that were lost tragically at Douglas HighSchool in Parkland,” Wade tweeted Monday. “Joaquin was one of many that I heard was excited about my return to Miami and yesterday was buried in my jersey. This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble!”
Oliver’s parents shared their decision to bury him in a jersey in a talk show on Univision on Sunday. When Wade heard this news, he tweeted that it was “about to make me cry this afternoon.”
“You really can’t put that in words,” Wade had told reporters Monday. “You hurt for the family and if you’re able to get an opportunity to speak to them, you just try to hope that the time where he was alive, that you were able to bring some form of joy to his life and something memorable, a story that you guys can talk about.
“I don’t even know the word for it,” he said. “Like I retweeted on Twitter, I said, ‘You’re going to make me cry.’ It’s emotional even thinking about that, that his parents felt that burying him in my jersey is something that he wanted. I take a lot of pride in what I’ve done in this state and what I’ve meant for the youth, so I appreciate that.”
Wade previously won three championships in Miami, before this month’s emotional return.
“I definitely always said my life has always been bigger than basketball. Playing here and being able to do some of the things I’ve done on the court, and I think off the court just as equally has helped that for sure,” Wade said. “My mom always told me that my life was bigger than basketball. And I always carry that around by the way I try to treat people. I treat them the way that I want to be treated or the way I want my kids to be treated. I also understand the position that I’m in. God has given me this unbelievable opportunity to play at this level, and I understand what comes with that from a role model standpoint.”
The Heat wore black bands on their uniforms Saturday in their first home game after the shooting and led a tribute to the 17 who died.
“We applaud the fearless students that are fighting for their lives,” Wade said Saturday, opening the tribute. “We also make sure that their voices are heard around gun safety. You are our nation’s inspiration. We salute you and we support you.”
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