Miami Heat scheduleI, like so many in South Florida, grew up with Dwyane Wade. 2003 was the year I finished middle school and started high school - formative times - and not just for me, but for South Florida as well. As a city, never mind a sports town, Miami had been long misjudged and misunderstood. Home to the bad-boy Miami Hurricanes and the somehow two-time world champion Florida Marlins, South Florida was never a Boston of sports towns or dare I say a Chicago. There wasn't the history, the traditions, or the roots. In the world of professional sports, South Florida was an infant learning to walk.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, then came June 26th, 2003. With the fifth pick, the Miami Heat selected Dwyane Wade. With bookends from that night of June 26th, 2003 to the late evening on July 6, 2016, a tremendous transformation happened and a story was written, but the story we all wanted so badly to believe was a fairytale turned heartbreaker with just one tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski. Just before midnight, the carriage turned into a pumpkin, and #HeatNation is left now picking pieces of shrapnel out of our bodies from the bomb only one man could drop. He was our son that grew into a man and built the family a home. A home with a lot of wins, a large amount of hardware, banners, and a few pieces of luxury jewelry, but most importantly he instilled hope into that home - our home. A hope that no matter what, come each October, we'd have a leader and with his capable hands - everything else would be just fine.
What you feel now, what we all feel now, is a vacuum of space where that hope no longer exists. It shattered along with the wish to make one last title push with our founding father at the helm. However now, the way forwards has never looked more unclear. In ‘08-'09 when the Heat were an NBA doormat, we knew it would be temporary. In '15-'16 we all convinced ourselves we would reach the Eastern Conference Finals and have a chance to take on LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers despite obvious shortcomings. The uniting factor in all of it, 13 years of it, was Wade. And now he's gone. Gone to a team that makes little sense other than being a 'hometown' team. Impossible because Miami is his home - at least that is what we thought and what he told us and what it said on the clothes he wore. When I think of Wade and the Chicago Bulls, I think of a steal and a running 3-point shot at the buzzer. Certainly not this.
So how did we end up here? Of course the head and the heart want an easy answer - a simple answer that makes sense and can be placed in a box under the bed so it won't hurt us anymore. That is, until we open that box and start watching YouTube videos of Wade's greatest moments. The answer here is in the roots, not the water. And that is why there was no reconciliation to be had. The whole tree had to come out. Last year at this time Riley was able to change the water in hopes to fix the problem. We all found out last night that the problem went far deeper. The seeds on this poisonous tree were planted during the best sports times of our collective lives - from 2010 to 2014.
Miami instantly became the center of the basketball world and with that came fame, infamy, and a lot of hate from everyone outside of South Florida. To make it all happen required sacrifice of all kinds. #HeatNation served as this team's bodyguard on a 24 hour basis around the clock. Those four years of being on a basketball drug high of the highest intensity galvanized Miami. It hardened the fan base, but it also hardened Wade.
The ultimate success of those Heat teams took Wade to higher highs than even he could have imagined. The sacrifices, the pain, and then finally seeing his best friend walk out the back door changed Dwyane. He went into those four years a #HeatLifer, and came out of those four years as a global businessman. The erosion of Wade as a #HeatLifer has been slow and steady. Fooled by charged fist pumps and playoff heroics, we were blinded to what has happening right under our noses. Last year's offseason wasn't just A red flag - it was THE red flag. A precursor to what we are left to deal with now. A future without the man who has been the future for as long as we have seen one.
Wade now goes on to a place that will never love him like his real home does, like family does. With delicate knees and a legacy to cement, one would have thought that is a love worth fighting for. Wade told us too many times, "It's bigger than basketball," we were just too high on it to grasp what that meant. So now Wade, the businessman, heads off to Chicago because it was a better ‘deal'. He'll always have his friends like LeBron James and Chris Paul as there are countless summer vacations to still be had, but leaves behind the family that helped raised him to become a man.
I was told as a child to never mix family and business - now I know why. Hopefully that is simple enough.