The upcoming NBA season will be it for Dwyane Wade. That’s according to Wade himself, who announced in a video Sunday that he’ll return to the Miami Heat for “one last dance.”
“It’s been a tough summer,” Wade said in the video, posted to his personal YouTube account and showing him speaking directly to the camera in an otherwise completely dark room. “This has been a summer for me that not a lot of athletes want to see this time come, where you have to decide if you want to continue to play the game that you love, continue to play the game that you played for 31 years, since I was 5, or if you want to walk away or if you want to do something else, if you want to clear the path for the next generation to come in.”
Wade is reportedly expected to sign a one-year deal later this week with the Heat for the veteran’s minimum, in his case $2.4 million. He began his career in Miami as the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, helped lead the franchise to all three of its NBA championships and is easily the most revered player in the team’s annals.
The 36-year-old guard indicated last month that while he hadn’t decided whether to return to the NBA, the Heat was the only team for which he would consider playing. In turn, the team has held a roster spot open for him, and according to the Associated Press, Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra was among the team officials who made a push last week to convince Wade to suit up again.
“What I feel is it’s right to ask you guys to join me for one last dance,” Wade said in the nearly 10-minute video, speaking with emotion to Heat and NBA fans. “For one last season. This is it.
“I’ve given this game everything that I have, and I’m happy about that. And I am going to give it for one last season everything else I have left. Let’s enjoy it.”
“Let’s push this young team over the hump,” he added, “and write our own story to the end of this career together.”
Wade is unlikely to end his career with another title, but the Heat has a chance to make some noise in an Eastern Conference perennially weaker than its Western counterpart, particularly with former Miami teammate LeBron James moving from the Cavaliers to the Lakers. The Heat, which went 44-38 last season, boasts a solid mix of talented young players and capable veterans, plus, in Spoelstra, one of the NBA’s most respected coaches.
A 12-time all-star, Wade leads the Heat in a wide array of career statistics, including games, points, assists, steals, field goals and free throws. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to help the franchise win its first title, then took a pay cut, as well as a reduction in his alpha-male status on the team, to help James and Chris Bosh sign with Miami in 2010, at which point the Heat reeled off four straight Finals appearances and two more championships.
The chance to play for his hometown team, plus a huge contract offer in free agency, lured Wade to the Chicago Bulls in 2016, and then he rejoined James in Cleveland last season. That partnership was not as fruitful, though, as in the first go-round, and the Cavs dealt Wade back to the Heat at February’s trade deadline.
Over 21 games last season in Miami, Wade played a reserve role, as will be expected again this season. His production has fallen off in recent years, but he showed in the playoffs that he can still summon a vintage performance, at least from time to time.
“I’m not as quick as I used to be,” Wade said in the video. “I don’t jump as high as I used to, and boy, I used to get up. But there are things in this game that I have that I can write a book on, I can still accomplish with a team.”
“I have given this game everything I have and I am happy about that,” he stated at another point, adding, “When I walk away, I am still going to love it, I’m still going to want to play it. I am still going to miss the playoff moments. I am still going to miss the crowd cheering my name, I am still going to miss 20,000 cheering for me.”
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