MIAMI — Saturday night, when Dwyane Wade enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he will enter as a former member of the Miami Heat.
And of the Chicago Bulls.
And of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even with those other two teams merely as blips — 106 of Wade’s 1,054 regular-season appearances — this will not be like when Dirk Nowitzki ascends the stage Saturday in Springfield, Mass., having played only for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, or as previous single-franchise icons before, such as Wade idol Kobe Bryant.
Tuesday, ahead of Wade’s induction, Heat President Pat Riley discussed the regret, remorse, rue of parting with Wade in 2016 NBA free agency for his hometown Bulls and then the brief stint with the Cavaliers before rejoining the Heat at the 2018 NBA trading deadline to close out his career.
“When he left, it was like a cooling-off period,” Riley said, reflecting on the mood of the moment in July 2016, when Wade felt slighted by Heat offers in the wake of money spent elsewhere on the roster on Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh. “And it wasn’t something that was borne out of petulance on his part, where, ‘I’m just going to show you.’ No, he got a great deal with Chicago for two years. And he decided to leave.”
With Heat owner Micky Arison taking the lead in the negotiations, Wade signed a two-year, $47 million contract that summer with the Bulls. His first-year Chicago salary of $23.2 million was more than $3 million more than he earned in any season with the Heat.
“And when he left,” Riley reflected Tuesday, “there were some hard feelings on both sides. But they weren’t lethal. I was sad to see him go. I was upset that he left. I knew we could work something out, but we didn’t. We did not work it out the way that he wanted it to be worked out, and that’s our fault.
“And I think probably as much as myself and Micky and anybody else with the Heat, I think Dwyane, once he went to Chicago, and then he went to Cleveland, I think he wanted back as much as any of us wanted him back. Again, that’s just the way he is.”
The parting came after Wade was drafted No. 5 by the Heat out of Marquette in 2003, after Wade helped lead the Heat to NBA titles in 2006, ’12 and ’13, after Wade secured 12 All-Star berths with the Heat.
Riley on Tuesday compared that long-lamented moment to when Alonzo Mourning, another franchise icon, briefly left for the New Jersey Nets for a 30-game stint between Heat tenures.
“Even when Zo left for New Jersey, he came back,” Riley said. “And without him, we don’t win in 2006. So just because a player leaves, you’re concerned about how it happened and the feelings that were hurt at the time.
“But, look it, I’m wide-open arms when he says, ‘I’d like to come back to Miami,’ and we got him back. And we know how it ended for him. It ended up with just a great year and a great retirement, the hanging of the jersey, a first-class speech.”
Riley paused, then continued.
“So it’s not easy,” he said. “Sometimes this sport can get into the way of relationships. But you’ve got to figure out a way to work it out.
“And I think the fact that we had been together for so long. We had had other times where there were fractures in the relationship. But you work it out. Player, coach. President, coach. President, player. Whatever. You work it out, if you value it. And I think over 28 years, we value the relationships. Not all of them work out, but this one did.”
It ended on April 10, 2019, in Brooklyn, in front of friends such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, with a triple-double at Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets, the moment that also started the countdown clock toward this impending Hall induction.
“So I was happy as hell when he came back, to be able to embrace him again and to watch him play his last season with us,” Riley said. “And to get his triple-double in Brooklyn, in front of his pals that showed up in Brooklyn. That was great.”
So, in the end, full circle.
A mentorship fractured.
But a friendship that has endured.
“As coach, I drove him very hard,” said Riley, who coached Wade to that 2006 championship, before returning full time to the front office. “I was hard on him. I love him. We argued. He knew that I thought that he was great and that I was going to put him in the position to be the guy that was going to lead us to a championship, because he was our best player at the time.
“When I left (as coach), the relationship grew to the point where we got the Big Three (with James and Bosh) and we went through those four years. There was a little bit of a separation there when he went to Chicago. We worked that out.
“And I give Dwyane a lot of credit. I give the contemporary player a lot of credit, not to hold things against the coach or management or general managers. When they leave, sometimes there is some resentment. But Dwyane grew out of that. And even though he lives in Los Angeles and has a hell of a career off the court, we’re fused at the hip forever.”