Miami Heat: A fan experience attending Dwyane Wade’s L3GACY Celebration

NBA Miami Heat Dwyane Wade (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NBA Miami Heat Dwyane Wade (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

An open letter from a Miami Heat fan that attended Dwyane Wade’s Legacy Celebration

Wow! I just got home from Dwyane Wade’s jersey retirement in Miami at the AmericanAirlines Arena and the experience was simply magical. This was a night about celebrating a man who had a 16-year career that began and ended playing for the Miami Heat.

I knew it would be a crazy and historic night, so I arrived at the arena nearly an hour and a half before the show began (it really did feel more like a rock concert than a basketball game). I entered the arena and was handed a black and gold program with Dwyane Wade’s No. 3 on it in black and gold. It featured highlights of his career, quotes reflecting what made him great.

Before the game started, they had countless moments and tributes to Wade throughout the years as well as the words, “MV3,” (another nod to Wade’s number) spelled out on the seats using different colored t-shirts as the whole crowd got free shirts.

More from Sir Charles In Charge

The shirts said, “L3GACY,” on them (again a nod to Wade’s now retired iconic number), which was also the name of Wade’s three-day celebration. There was a Friday, “L3GACY,” ceremony reminiscing on Wade’s career for season ticket holders and Wade’s fellow Miami legends, teammates and coaches. However, since this was mostly not tailored to fans and I wasn’t there that won’t be elaborated on, but is still very special nonetheless and featured Wade rapping on stage with all-time great Miami Rap legend Rick Ross.

It was finally time to watch the Heat play the Cleveland Cavaliers as Duncan Robinson hit a barrage of 3-pointers with the Heat up 82-52 at the half. The game was secondary to the tributes to Wade featuring one of the most beautiful, emotional, yet short basketball videos I had ever seen during a commercial break.

A video featured a young boy watching Wade get drafted with his father in June of 2003 as the camera circled around the TV then showing the boy cheering with a friend as Wade hit his classic game-winner in the playoffs against Baron Davis and the Hornets during his rookie season in April of 2004 (a moment where everyone knew this kid was special). The camera flipped around the TV again as we saw the boy a few years older watching again with his dad as 24-year-old Dwyane Wade won the Heat their first championship in franchise history against the Dallas Mavericks in June of 2006, also becoming one of the youngest Finals MVPs ever-inspiring a generation of kids around the globe.

The camera flipped around the TV again as we see the same kid now a teenager with more friends on the same couch watching Dwyane Wade hit arguably his most iconic shot with a double-overtime buzzer-beater on March 9th, 2009 in a 48-point virtuoso performance after stealing the ball at the last second before hitting a one-footed running three-pointer at the buzzer in heroic fashion.

This led to what is arguably the most iconic Dwyane Wade image in a pure, unadulterated outpouring of emotion as he jumped on the announcer’s table pointing both fingers down yelling, “this is my house,” an image that was omnipresent throughout the entire weekend.

The camera flipped around once more like the man who began as a child was now college-age as Wade, LeBron, and Chris Bosh celebrated their second championship together and Wade’s third in June of 2013. Finally, the camera flipped around once more as we saw the man who began a minute ago in real-time as a boy, but as 16 years had passed in the blink of an eye and he was now watching Wade’s final game in April of 2019 with his own son completing the circle of life.

This commercial was so emotional and perfect leading up to the jersey retirement because whatever passion you may have shared with someone you love beginning as a child is something you hope to one day experience and share with your own kids. For those of us who grew up watching Wade, this video struck a deep, emotional chord at how fast time flies, how special certain moments are and why you should appreciate them while they’re around.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Everyone came for as Heat began setting up for an epic ceremony to raise their greatest icon’s jersey into the rafters forever immortalizing him as a legend. The arena staff brought out Wade’s three championships and 3D block letters that spelled out, “L3GACY,” using iconic images of Wade for him to speak in front of.  To the left of this set up were chairs for Wade’s family including his mother Jolinda, his father Dwyane Wade Sr., his siblings, wife Gabrielle Union, son Zaire, other children and those who were important to his career outside of basketball such as business managers, chefs and the director of his movie, which premiered at the arena the following day (which we’ll get to soon).

To the right were those who had a more direct impact on Dwyane Wade’s basketball career including Pat Riley, President of basketball operations for the Miami Heat and legendary coach of both Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers and Wade’s first Miami Heat championship team with Shaq, fellow big 3 teammate and 2003 draft mate Chris Bosh, 17-year heat lifer and fellow 2003 draftmate Udonis Haslem, Erik Spoelstra, who was the coach of the Heat during the Big 3 era, an assistant since Wade arrived in Miami and is still the coach of the Heat today, Alonzo Mourning, Ray Allen, David Fizdale, the assistant coach of the Miami Heat during The Big 3 era and more.

Finally, the ceremony began with a video compilation of Wade’s career highlights both on and off the floor.

Legends and friends of Wade such as Chris Paul, Shaquille O’Neal, and Carmelo Anthony gave speeches congratulating him and praising him. Then, it was time for the final speaker before the man of the weekend. Pat Riley.

Riley referred to Wade as an icon and, “simply the best,” as you could feel the emotion in his voice before he finally announced it was time to forever immortalize him as the legend he was, inviting wife Gabrielle Union and son Zaire Wade to raise Dwyane Wade’s jersey to the rafters.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem, one of the most popular songs in the world when Wade was drafted, blasted through the speakers as his jersey rose to the rafters. It was now Wade’s time to speak.

Wade’s appreciation for everyone who was part of his career path and life path was felt in his speech as not a single heart left the arena that night without being touched. He thanked his father, his mother, his wife, and children. He thanked his chefs, business manager and director of the documentary of his life premiering the next day. He thanked best friend and legendary teammate LeBron James and Shaq for winning his first championship. Wade listed off college teammates by name thanking his high school coach and in a truly heartfelt moment thanked the fans through the words of one of the greatest players of all-time.

Dwyane Wade decided to close off his speech by quoting his dearly departed friend whom he admittedly looked up to and wanted to make proud. Before quoting him, he referred to him as one of the all-time greats and as, “the late Kobe Bryant,” a moment that made his passing feel all too real.

"Wade passionately explained, “Kobe said the most important thing is to try to inspire others so they can be great in whatever they try to do. I hope I inspired you. Thank you for making me a part of your legacy. Please know you’re a huge part of mine.”"

It doesn’t get too much better than my favorite living basketball player, whose entire career I watched, enjoyed and remembered since I was 10 years old, having his jersey being retired and raised to the rafters while my favorite song by my favorite rapper plays in the background with Dwyane Wade rapping along and then quoting and paying tribute to my all-time favorite player Kobe Bean Bryant.

As Wade finished his speech his new, and first, the song entitled, “Season Ticket Holder” with Rick Ross played on the speakers. Wade may be the only person in NBA history to have his own rap verse playing, which is a great verse by the way, while his jersey is being retired, but Wade has always done things his way and this beautifully summed that up in a special moment of Wade being his own soundtrack while hugging and thanking everyone previously mentioned on the court as well as the current Miami Heat roster.

The mayor of Miami also came out to pronounce February 22nd, 2020 as Dwyane Wade Day in Miami with a poster reading “Miami-Wade County,” after when the city actually changed the name of, “Miami-Dade County” in Wade’s honor for a week of free agency recruiting in 2010 (clearly the ploy worked). Wade was then presented the key to the city as most fans will still always refer to the area surrounding AmericanAirlines Arena as Wade County.

There were some special Heat moments after the jersey retirement left in the night such as Ray Allen, who hit arguably the greatest shot in NBA history in the same arena he hit the shot, where he was now sitting as a spectator in the stands being shown on the jumbotron. Not far away one could spot David Fizdale, the assistant coach of the epic Big 3 who would go on to become a head coach and NBA analyst as it almost felt like for one night that era returned to the AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Miami Heat’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is undoubtedly an era of NBA history in and of itself with them having made four straight finals winning two championships with unimaginable levels of both hype and hate around the league. They were polarizing and years later most look back with nothing but fondness for an epic era in basketball and pop culture history.

There was one final Heat moment that was truly special. Udonis Haslem has been in the NBA for 17 years and has barely played any minutes for at least the last 10 of those seasons. However, his veteran presence and ability to lift up others has kept him coming back for a career over three times longer than the average NBA player. In a moment, unlike anything I have seen in sports before, the crowd began chanting as loud as they could to put Wade’s longest-tenured teammate in the game. Udonis got up and sat back down as if to fake out the crowd.

He and coach Spoelstra were looking at each other as the cheers got louder and finally, Udonis took off his warm-up pants to reveal shorts and the fan chanting actually worked to get the 39-year-old Miami Heat legend (who will probably be one of the few players to ever have a jersey retired without making an all-star game one day) in the game to the joy of everyone including Dwyane Wade.

Finally, Wade left the arena near the end of the fourth quarter to a massive ovation right as the Heat completed their blow out of Cavaliers. It was time for the winner’s circle interview conducted by the same man who conducted the majority of those interviews in that spot for Wade. Kendrick Nunn, a rookie guard from Chicago just like Wade, grew up idolizing him and has now been named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month every month this season. He led all scorers with 24 points on this night and credited Wade for Miami’s performance as well his own.

With Bam Adebayo winning the all-star skills contest and regularly compiling triple-doubles as a big man, Jimmy Butler as Wade’s friend and leader along with recently crowned dunk contest winner, the high-flying Derrick Jones Jr. and an assortment of 3-point shooters like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro the Heat are entering a new era. However, with Nunn being the one in the winner’s circle on Wade’s night as a guard from Chicago and having some eerily similar moves to Wade history may be repeating itself down in South Florida.

The following day was Wade’s premiere of his movie on his life featuring 10 years of interviews, family stock footage and multiple never-before-seen moments that provide incredible and moving context to NBA history. Fans had the luxury to see the special five hours before the rest of the country for $3.

What was truly incredible about this experience was watching with the crowd as we all reacted to the iconic moments of Miami’s favorite son as though they were happening in real-time. I flew out from my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba so I really wasn’t there for many of these moments, but cheering and reacting in the crowd with many of the die-hards fans from Miami, who I had the pleasure of interacting with and hearing their stories of living in Miami during Wade’s tenure before the screening, made it feel like I was living them out in real-time as though I was there at the arena when they happened in an experience that was truly priceless.

When Wade threw the ball up in the air as the Heat captured the 2006 championship and the crowd cheered it felt like I was there in the moment and I was 13 years old again. As we watched LeBron make his infamous announcement the crowd was able to laugh and enjoy the ludicrousness of the moment nearly a decade later. The two other championship celebrations once again felt like I was there, and it was like watching myself grow up over an hour and a half.

However, even if you have never heard of Dwyane Wade this film was extremely well made littered with valuable life lessons all over, excellent shots, perfectly timed edits and one of the rawest portraits of a person you will ever see.

Wade epitomizes that our greatest heroes were perfectly imperfect and comfortable with that. THAT is what makes them truly great. How we respond to those moments that challenge us is how legends are created. Wade shows the way (ironically his new company in his second act is called Way of Wade) that the blueprint is to simply keep pushing as we all encounter difficulties.

Next. NBA: 5 bold predictions for the remainder of the season. dark

Dwyane Wade is now officially a legend and without his struggles, there would be no legend… there would be no Dwyane Wade… a wonderful lesson for us all to take away not just for the game of basketball, but the game of life.