The date was June 26, 2003. The NBA draft was taking place in Madison Square Garden. The Miami Heat held the fifth-overall selection. The pool included some of the most talented players ever. It was important the Heat get this one right.
In retrospect, no one, not even the Miami Heat, knew just how consequential that day would be. Or just how right they would get it.
The Heat's second-round pick, North Dakota power forward Jerome Beasley, would play two games for the team.
Oh, and Miami also came away with a shooting guard out of Marquette named Dwyane Wade.
He played more than two games for the Heat.
So how did it happen?
1. The Cleveland Cavs win the NBA lottery, ending the LeBron sweepstakes. Once the Ping-Pong balls fell the Cleveland Cavaliers' way, pick number one was off the board. LeBron James was staying in Ohio. That left teams two through four to decide among the remaining top prospects: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
Or that's what we thought. It didn't turn out that way. More on that later.
Once LeBron was a lock to Cleveland, chips started moving around. Teams began pondering the consolation prizes. Miami was a little disappointed the lottery didn't go as it had hoped.
2. The Heat drops from its projected fourth slot down to the fifth-overall pick. Heading into the draft lottery, the percentages said the Heat would have the fourth-overall pick. That didn't happen. The team dropped one crucial spot to fifth. Not usually a huge deal, but in this draft it sucked.
Luckily, the Heat got a little help from another team — not by moving up, but because a player was taken earlier than many expected.
3. The Detroit Pistons make an all-time draft blunder and take Darco Milicic second overall. What. The. Hell. Detroit. This was the moment all Heat fans knew something big was about to happen. This changed everything. Now the Heat would have Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or Dwyane Wade on the board when it picked.
All the Heat had to do now was not blow it. The team just had to pick one of the best players in college basketball when he fell Miami's way.
The Heat couldn't screw that up, right? RIGHT?!
4. Pat Riley needed to be convinced Dwyane Wade was the guy. It had always been rumored Riley was more interested in a point guard or center Chris Kaman than Dwyane Wade,
He admitted in 2013 that was the case. Here is what Riley said to ESPN about his thoughts heading into the 2003 draft:
I've always wanted to coach veterans. I've always preferred to coach 25- or 26-year-olds who had some experience. I also never believed that our team was ever going to be bad enough to think we'd get a high pick. But that year we ended up with No. 5, and I was looking at point guards and centers; that's what we needed. I had guys like Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford and Chris Kaman high on our list, and I was interested in them. Dwyane was on there, but at the start of the process, I wasn't sure.
Good God — if the Heat had ended up with Ford or Hinrich, we can only assume Riley would have retired years ago. The hurt of blowing it in one of the greatest drafts ever would have haunted him forever.
#Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that the Orlando #Magic and Miami #Heat had discussed a 2003 draft-day trade that if Miami didn’t get the guy they wanted at the No. 5 pick, they would trade it for the guy they did. Doc was hoping to draft Dwyane Wade (@DwyaneWade). pic.twitter.com/ermUp8Mn0B— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 9, 2018
5. The Heat had agreed to trade its pick to the Orlando Magic if Wade was gone. Recently, Doc Rivers revealed that back in 2003, when he was coach of the Orlando Magic, that team planned to trade for Miami's pick and select Wade.
Unfortunately for Doc and the Magic, Miami took Wade. Orlando took Reece Gaines at number 15.
6. The Miami Heat selects Dwyane Wade with the fifth pick. And the rest, as they say, is history. Here we sit in 2019, three titles and 13 All-Star appearances later. Wade, in his final season, just passed Michael Jordan as the best shot-blocking guard in NBA history.
Wade put the Miami Heat on the map. That June day back in 2003 is undoubtedly the greatest day in franchise history.
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