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Dwyane Wade: An Unparalleled Legacy (Part IV)

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Wade returned to the Heat and had One Last Dance.

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Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This is the fourth and final part of a series. For earlier parts, see below.

Dwyane Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2016, but agreed to a buyout just a year later. As a free agent, Wade signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers to join his friend LeBron James — despite reported overtures from the Heat. Wade and Pat Riley still had a fractured relationship; the two didn’t speak for a time.

But in late January 2018, Wade’s longtime agent Henry “Hank” Thomas — who also represented Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh — passed away. At Thomas’ funeral, Wade and Riley hugged. And according to Wade, that was all they needed.

“The hug that we embraced was real and it was all we needed,” Wade said of the brief encounter with Riley at the funeral. “That’s it. That’s all we both needed. I walked away and I felt better about everything, without even getting into anything.”

The next week, the Cavaliers traded Wade back to Miami. Haslem said that, “Hank’s still doing his job from above.”

Two of the most iconic basketball figures in the world, Wade and RIley, mended their relationship so that the most accomplished Heat player would get the sendoff he deserved — the one we all saw on Tuesday and Wednesday. Before his jersey retirement, before the unveiling of the statue, Wade would be able to end his career in Miami.

Dion Waiters had suffered a season-ending injury, so Wade had a rotation spot waiting for him. He made his impact felt immediately. Just three weeks after getting traded, the three-time NBA champion scored 15 fourth-quarter points against the Philadelphia 76ers, including the game-winner over Ben Simmons. For the first time in a while, Wade got to declare, “This is my house!” in the American Airlines Arena.

Just as Wade had done throughout his career — starting with his first-ever playoff game as a rookie, through his clutch performances against the Pistons, Mavericks, Celtics, Pacers and Spurs — the 2006 NBA Finals MVP rose to the occasion. A few months later, Wade won the Heat a playoff game against those same 76ers.

Wade scored 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting, dominating the game throughout. Nothing had changed for Heat fans over the years. There he was, effortlessly putting his team on his back.

The Sixers went on to win the next three games, and Wade contemplated retirement. When he sat down with his personal team to discuss his plans, they told him, “Your fans want to say goodbye.” Just prior to the 2018-19 season, Wade asked fans to join him for One Last Dance.

And it was a hell of a ride. In every opposing NBA arena, Wade drew cheers upon entering the game. Against the defending champion Golden State Warriors Feb. 27 — in fact, exactly a year after his game-winner against the Sixers — Wade knocked down a buzzer-beating 3.

He ended his career with 18 straight games scoring in double figures, with gas still left in the tank. His last two games — a home finale against the Sixers and a road game against the Brooklyn Nets — came after the Heat’s first four-game losing streak of the season, one that effectively ended their playoff hopes. That turned those games into glorified scrimmages, where Wade gave one final act as the showman that he is. He scored 30 points in the home finale, and notched a triple-double the next night.

Will we get another Dwyane Wade? No — but not just because this new NBA era finds superstars more likely to change teams. Entering his NBA career, Wade worked tirelessly with then-assistant Erik Spoelstra to improve his jump shot. He’s a throwback player; the mid-range game is a lost art now. He harnessed a competitive fire that few NBA players match. He’s the best shot-blocking guard in NBA history. He’s a champion who knew when to let others lead. And he’ll make you cry watching a Budweiser commercial.

Wade’s legacy is unparalleled.