Thank You, Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Goran Dragic at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Photo by Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately, when it comes to acquiring top-tier talent in the NBA, most of the time you need to give up something of value to get something back.

In the case of the Miami Heat's recent acquisition of Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, longtime Heat guard Goran Dragic was that something; he's heading to Toronto in a sign-and-trade deal that also included Precious Achiuwa.

And just like that, the man with the third-most assists in Heat franchise history is gone. And so ends an era of Heat basketball Dragic started six seasons ago. Though Gragic's era followed the most memorable one in team history, it feels nearly as meaningful as the two titles and four Finals appearances the LeBron James teams brought to Miami.

It's not always about winning. The greatest thing Goran brought to the Heat franchise and its fans was a sense of stability. Sometimes in a single game, he'd consistently hit big baskets to end an opponent's run. He was always there when the Heat needed him most, even if his body wasn't cooperating.
The Miami-Toronto guard swap ends an incredible run for Dragic. A run that began when the Heat acquired him from the Phoenix Suns on February 19, 2015.

To bring Dragic to Miami, the Heat traded away two future first-round picks. The cost seemed fair at the time, but it was risky for a franchise deficient in assets after selling the farm to keep the "Big 3" teams from breaking down all those years.

Adding Dragic to a core of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade sent a jolt through a fanbase that was still recovering from the hangover of the "Big 3." He was clutch for Miami before he even dribbled a single basketball for the Heat.
Not hours after the trade was announced, however, tragedy struck. Chris Bosh was diagnosed with a blood-clot condition that would end his season, and eventually, after a few comeback attempts, his career. Dragic and Bosh's pick-and-roll plays never happened. The trio that never was remains one of the greatest "what ifs" in South Florida sports history.

Plan A for Dragic was crushed. Wade-Bosh-Dragic was over before it began. Suddenly, Dragic had far more weight on his shoulders. He was responsible for being the main cog on teams that were likely the last of Wade's career.

The time was now to build around the Heat's backcourt if there was ever a chance of competing against LeBron-led teams or the Golden State Warriors juggernaut. Wade needed a running mate. Dragic was the last man standing.

Then, another unlikely, unforeseen oddity struck: After some contract disputes and hard feelings, the unthinkable happened. Dwyane Wade left for the Chicago Bulls in free agency during the summer of 2016.

Just like that, Dragic was the last man standing. Wanting to leave Phoenix for a contender, Dragic was suddenly in Miami, looking around at a team that was worse than the one he'd left.
The year that followed saw Dragic playing alongside the likes of Luke Babbitt, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, and Josh McRoberts. Dragic never complained or requested a trade, even as it seemed his prime years were being wasted on a team he never signed up to play for. Not only did Dragic not complain about his circumstances, but he also thrived in them, leading that group of misfits to the playoffs, where they lost in five games to the 76ers.

From underachieving teams that represented nothing about traditional Miami Heat basketball, to the incredible squad that came two games from an NBA championship in 2020, Dragic has shown up every single season, no gripes or questions asked, and led through his play.

Goran Dragic was a bridge from the euphoria of the Big 3 until now. He put up with everything in between, tried his hardest to make the best out of the situation, and, amazingly, did make the best out of it.

Dragic was like the best friend everyone needs around to get through a bad break-up. His contributions to the story that is the Miami Heat will never be forgotten. His no. 7 will be raised to the rafters one day — not because of his success on the court, but for what he meant off it.

Thank you, Goran Dragic. You're a class act. Heat Nation will always remember what you did for our basketball team.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi