Retirement Waiting, Wade Appreciates Chicago

"My vision of playing basketball started watching the Bulls," Dwyane Wade says.

Cody Westerlund
January 19, 2019 - 8:39 pm
Heat guard Dwyane Wade

Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

Categories: 

(670 The Score) Less than hour before tip-off Saturday evening, Chicago native Dwyane Wade weighed a question on how emotional he expected to be in what was most certainly his final game in his hometown as the Bulls hosted his Miami Heat.

He wasn’t sure in that moment. What Wade was certain of was what the city and its basketball legacy has meant to him, helping drive him to and amid a 16-year NBA career highlighted by 12 All-Star nods and three championships. Wade plans to retire at season's end, tabbing this campaign his "One Last Dance," and this marked the final time the rebuilding Bulls host the playoff-contending Heat in the regular season.

"My vision of playing the game of basketball started watching the Chicago Bulls, my favorite player of all-time Michael Jordan, Scottie (Pippen)," Wade said. "I could go down the list and name all the Bulls players. It definitely, this city, this Chicago Bulls name, it means a lot to me. It will always mean a lot to me.

"You guys know it’s not an easy place to live. Growing up in the inner city, to make it out to be a vision of hope for the next generation, we take a lot of pride in that. And to come back and give back and hopefully give others opportunity to be successful but also just for people in the city of Chicago to see that it can be done, you can get out. A lot of us had a ball and a dream and that ball has taken us so many places and we’ve been able to do a lot of things with it."

The Bulls played a video tribute for Wade at a timeout midway through the first quarter. After it concluded, he received a standing ovation from the United Center crowd and took a moment to acknowledge the fans with a wave.

All the basketball highlights in the video were of Wade in a Bulls uniform, which came during a one-year detour in Chicago in 2016-’17. The Bulls secured the eighth seed that season and were eliminated in six games against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

Wade signed with the Bulls in July 2016 after some friction with the Heat and largely because of the money, inking a two-year, $47-million deal. He gave back about $8 million of that in a buyout on the eve of training camp in September 2017, then landed with good friend LeBron James in Cleveland before getting traded back to Miami.

His heart was always in Miami. With that as context, Wade was asked what it was like to see the Jordan statue outside of the United Center and know that he meant something similar to the Heat franchise.

"That don’t even really sound right," Wade said. "I obviously grew up idolizing one of the game’s greatest players and just wanted to have a little of what he had, and I’ve been able to make an impact on a generation and make an impact on a city and state in south Florida, so it’s cool. It’s definitely cool. It’s that whole thing that dreams come true. Don’t ever think you’re dreaming too big, because you never know what’s in the cards and what’s waiting for you. So I’m truly blessed to be able to say that my career has been able to go the way it has went. I’m lucky."

Wade would have no part of weighing in on where he ranks among the great basketball players to come out of Chicago, but he was happy to share who he believes has that distinction.

"When people have asked me who I think the best player who was born and raised in Chicago, I always go with Isiah Thomas," Wade said. "My generation and growing up watching him and knowing his career and what he was able to accomplish in a short period of time, to me, was incredible. But I had a lot of friends who was amazing, Chicago high school basketball players like QRich (Quentin Richardson) and Corey Maggette. I’ve been able to sit and watch so many great players before me during my time. Eddy Curry was here in Chicago. Watching young Jabari (Parker) all these young guys kind of make their way. Young D-Rose (Derrick Rose), I remember seeing him in seventh grade playing in open gym. Everybody was like, ‘Man, he’s going to be something one day.’ You take a look at him and then a couple years later he’s in the NBA playing against you. So many players who have come through this city that I love to watch and respect because I know how we grew up and how we had to learn to fend for ourselves and what it took to become successful."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.