Based on everything he's said since the end of the playoffs, Dwyane Wade is beginning to seriously contemplate whether to return to the Miami Heat for his 16th season in the NBA. As greedy local fans, we hope Wade decides to run it back one more time — if only so Miami can embrace an entire season of properly soaking in his victory lap. We'd like more time to say goodbye.
But if Wade decides he's done, fans would understand. He has accomplished more than even his wildest dreams since Miami drafted him in 2003. There is nothing left to prove. All that's left are accolades and honors for what has truly been one of the greatest careers any athlete in any sport has ever seen.
If this is it for Wade on the hardwood, we just want to be the first to send a few thank-you letters in his direction.
5. Thank you for making the Miami Heat a world-class franchise. When it's all said and done, and the NBA closes up shop, the history of the Heat will be written in two sections: B.W. and A.W., Before Wade, and After Wade. More specific: June 26, 2003, will be the day everything changed. We wouldn't have wanted any other player in that draft. Things just wouldn't have been the same.
Before the Heat drafted Wade, it was a good NBA franchise that had had its moments. But 15 years later, the Heat is a household name people in every corner of the world recognize. When one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports plays for your franchise for a decade and a half, people take notice.
4. Thank you for making South Florida your adopted home. We know Chicago will always be first in Wade's heart, but we'd like to think, after all these years, South Florida is a close second. One of the biggest reasons fans love D-Wade is that they can tell South Florida is more than just a temporary stop for him until he retires. He's a part of us. He cares about us. He sticks up for us. He brags about us. He encourages other people to experience our town. It's been pretty apparent since day one that Miami and Wade have been a match made in heaven.
Wade recently said he's not for everyone, but he's for Miami. Miami definitely can say the same.
3. Thank you for never, ever being a man who accepted those who said you should just "shut up and dribble." Wade has touched countless lives in our community. He's taken hours out of his busy schedule to do everything from visiting a local hospital as a rookie to popping in to support the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the Parkland massacre. Wade has truly been a father to the entire South Florida community. Our debt to him is enormous before we even begin to talk about basketball.
If Wade had been a local businessman who had done the things he's done to make people's lives better, we would have probably elected him to office. At the end of the day, basketball is just a sport that takes three hours out of a couple of days a week for fans. The things he's done off the court will live on in so many people's lives far longer than any memory of Wade Euro-stepping an opponent on the court.
2. Thank you for giving Miamians the sports hero they desperately needed at the perfect time. How much does Miami love Dwyane Wade? When he left in free agency, fans didn't burn his jersey; they stood in long lines for hours to buy more of them. That's not normal. After Dan Marino retired in 1999, it was a weird couple of years until the Heat drafted Wade. The Marlins won a World Series in that time — that's how weird things were back then.
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Imagining sports without Wade is, actually, unimaginable. It would be like desperately needing hot sauce and being handed ketchup. Ricky Williams came and went, and Jason Taylor tried his hardest. Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton never had a chance. Miami needed Dwyane Wade. He added class.
1. Thank you for being a part of Heat Nation. In the end, Dwyane Wade has been more than just a sports hero; he's been one of us. Wade has been more than someone on a local sports team; he's been on our team. From recruiting LeBron James and Chris Bosh so Heat fans could experience four years of sports glory that will never be rivaled by anyone else, to defending us on Twitter from the comments of a random 76ers bench player, Wade has been one of us since 2003.
Thank you, Dwyane Wade, for being more than just a basketball player. Thank you for being a part of Miami we'll never forget.