Dwyane Wade’s Legacy at the End of the Last Dance


Dwyane Wade has solidifed his legacy as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, but there’s even more to his greatness. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Stephen Lebitsch

As the 2019 NBA schedule rolls into April, we come to not only the end of another exciting and awe-inspiring season, but to the end of a historic and memorable career as well.

As Kobe Bryant did a few years earlier, following this last stretch of games (and possibly one final playoff run), Miami Heat shooting guard Dwayne Wade will hang up the sneakers and say goodbye to the game he’s played all his life and on which he’s left a lasting impact.

However, like Kobe, it’s only fitting that we look back on and commemorate what has been an extraordinary and legendary career before he rides off into the sunset.

Coming out of college at Marquette University, where from 2001-2003 he was the team’s leading scorer and helped it to its first Conference USA title, Wade was selected fifth overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft. He shared the spotlight with the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Joining a youthful squad in Miami, whose lackluster offensive production resulted in losing seasons the two years prior, Wade quickly brought them to the American Airlines Arena.

In his rookie season, Wade would go on to average 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 46.5%. With that type of offensive prowess, the Heat would finish the 2003-2004 season with a 42-40 record and qualify for the NBA Playoffs. It made it to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and gave the 61-win Indiana Pacers a run for their money.

Wade would also finish with a unanimous selection to 2004 NBA All-Rookie Team and a top five ranking among rookies for several statistical categories.

One of Wade’s most memorable seasons in his 16-year career would have to be the 2005-2006 season, where he would get his first taste of the NBA Finals and begin to solidify his legacy with the Miami Heat and in the league.

Despite having to overcome numerous obstacles throughout the season, Wade continued to improve his offensive stats and shine in the regular and postseason. He averaged 27.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game and was named a starter for the first time in the 2006 All-Star Game. To top it all off, he and then-Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal put the team on their shoulders and led it to Miami’s first NBA Finals where they defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-2 after losing the first two games.

Come the summer of 2010, everything changed; Wade would no longer be known for just resurrecting a team, but also for helping to create a dynasty in Miami.

Within days of each other, former Toronto Raptors star Chris Bosh came to the Heat via a sign-and-trade deal and LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to play in Miami. The three new teammates would form the infamous “Big Three,” a precursor to the super teams of today’s game.

Although he would have to share the spotlight with James, this didn’t bother Wade. The two became one of the most memorable duos in basketball. Even though he considered himself the number two guy for the Heat, Wade would still average over double-digit points per game, and his assist stats would remain high thanks to fancy passing and lobs for baskets with James.

Soon, a lot of NBA players wanted to sign with Miami because they could see something powerful coming from it. Unsurprisingly, the phenomenon did happen, as Wade, James and Bosh would dominate the Eastern Conference for four straight years together, each ending with a trip to the NBA Finals and two of the four with back-to-back titles.

However, as the old saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” The Big Three would eventually disband, and Wade was once again Heat’s main guy, but that would not last very long as the two sides would experience a taint in their relationship.

Following disagreements with the organization over his contract heading into the 2016-2017 season, and seeing the opportunity to play for his hometown team, Wade would decide to leave Miami to join the Chicago Bulls.

Despite being back home in Chicago, the homecoming wouldn’t be so pleasant for Wade as there were teammate issues, injury woes and an early exit from the NBA Playoffs. After another short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade would end up going back to where it all started, to the team that really defined his incredible career.

Wade would be able to reconcile with the team that first took a chance on him, even though they welcomed him home with open arms in 2018 as the Cavaliers would ship him to Miami in exchange for a 2024 draft pick.

Now, in his sixteenth season, Wade announced his intentions to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 season, in what he called his “Farewell Tour.”

Although his performance on the basketball court and championship pedigree is deserving of praise and admiration, what’s made Dwayne Wade’s career so memorable and unique is his unselfish approach to the game and his “team before me” attitude.

During his years with LeBron, Wade could have been one of those superstar athletes who didn’t want the love and attention that he created in Miami. However, he would decide to go the alternate route, welcoming James to the team and showing his willingness to work together to bring the organization a championship.

Wade was okay with the idea of having to be James’ sidekick and didn’t let his ego get in the way of the betterment of the team. Perhaps, this is what made the Miami Heat such a spectacular sight for the four years of the Big Three dynasty.

There is little doubt that Dwayne Wade’s career has been one of the most influential in recent NBA history.

His contributions to the Miami Heat coming out of college and all that he’s accomplished throughout his 16-year journey are truly unforgettable, and it sets a standard for many future players to come.

A three-time NBA champion with one NBA Finals MVP, one NBA scoring title, 13 All-Star appearances, numerous Olympic medals with Team USA and all-time Heat records in several categories, there is nothing a basketball fan can’t enjoy about watching Wade play.

There is no doubting that before Dwayne Wade enters the NBA history books, he will receive nothing but thanks from all who have idolized him.

Enjoy the last dance, D-Wade.