Tonight begins a three-day Dwyane Wade love-fest. This evening, the Miami Heat will host an event called the Flashback, during which the team and fans will honor Wade's impact on Heat basketball and the South Florida community. Wade weekend will continue Saturday night when the team will officially retire his iconic No. 3 jersey during halftime of the Heat's matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sunday night, the fun will close with a viewing of ESPN's extraordinary new film, D. Wade: Life Unexpected, which will premiere to the rest of the world later that evening.
Then it's a wrap. Signed, sealed, and delivered, Wade's career will be neatly packed away with a bow on top. The team's all-time greatest player will be cemented for the rest of eternity in Miami Heat lore.
When the proper honoring of Wade is in the rear-view mirror, it'll be about time to take on a new project of paying respects. It's time to focus on legendary power forward Udonis Haslem and his 17 seasons of service to both the Heat and his hometown.
Haslem is the last of the Mohicans. He's a soon-to-be-extinct breed. Until the day the Heat ceases to exist, Haslem will be considered the symbol of everything the franchise is about and everything new players should strive to become. He'll likely not venture too far from the team — maybe he'll take an assistant coaching position or executive role similar to Alonzo Mourning's — but his playing days seem to be waning after this season. If this is indeed the last go-around, Heat fans should not take it for granted.
Haslem hasn't 100 percent said he won't be back next season, but the writing is on the wall. After he was part of Wade's retirement tour last season, it was rumored Haslem, too, would hang up his sneakers. He decided to return, though, saying it would be up to "the guys on the team" if this season was his final. After missing the playoffs last season, Haslem wanted to end his career with a team that was reaching its potential, not one that was losing more than it won.
The Heat is, of course, one of the best stories in the NBA this season. The team hasn't reached its potential; it has exceeded it. Unless Haslem feels like taking another ride next year, it seems everything he wanted is in place and he's free to make a change. Though it's not guaranteed this season will be his last, it's time to soak up the experience of seeing UD on the court before it's too late.
Heat fans got an entire year to say goodbye to Dwyane Wade, but time might be running out to say farewell to Udonis Haslem as the end of this season nears. It's time for Heat fans to turn their attention to another all-time great.