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MIAMI — This weekend in South Florida sports lineage belongs to former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Next weekend in South Florida sports annals belongs to Dwyane Wade, and the iconic Miami Heat guard’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
But to Wade, it also is a weekend that deserves to be shared alongside a prime influence, the player whose number he adopted even before his Heat jersey.
Ahead of his induction, Wade explained why Allen Iverson will stand alongside next Saturday as his official Hall presenter.
“It was important to me that I touched the culture when I did this,” Wade told ESPN’s Andscape. “And Allen Iverson is somebody who gets forgotten for what he means to this game and what he means to a community and to a culture.
“And so, I want to bring that back to the front in the forefront and give him his flowers like he deserved and just tell him how important he was, man, to not only me, but to all the little boys that looked like me and look like him. He probably doesn’t get the chance to hear that all the time.”
Wade throughout his career has cited many prime influences, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and former Heat teammate LeBron James. But the ties to Iverson also were enduring, with Wade’s first NBA preseason game coming against the Philadelphia 76ers and Iverson on Oct. 7, 2003 in Puerto Rico.
“I’m like, ‘This is real, I’m playing A.I. tonight,’ nervous,” Wade said of going against Iverson that night at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan. “And that’s when I really realized that this is real. This ain’t college no more. This ain’t video games. It’s real life.”
Wade’s first regular-season game then came in Philadelphia on Oct. 28, 2003, a Heat loss when Iverson scored 26 and Wade 18.
“We talk about Jordan all the time. We talk about LeBron, we talk about Kobe. We don’t talk about A.I.,” Wade said. “He’s one of the (great) ones. So, I’m thankful that he said yeah, and I can’t wait for him to be the one to present me.”
By rule, a presenter must be a previous enshrinee, precluding James. Among those with ties to Wade’s Heat career already inducted in Springfield have been Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Alonzo Mourning, as well as Heat President Pat Riley, who coached Wade to the first of his three NBA championships with the Heat.
The respect between Iverson and Wade is mutual.
Amid Wade’s NBA farewell tour in 2018-19, Iverson provided a video tribute for Wade’s final appearance in Philadelphia.
“You were so great for us fans, so entertaining, so exciting for us to watch,” Iverson said. “You’re really one of the best two-guards to ever play the game.”
Of Wade’s own unique style, Iverson said, “His toughness was undeniable, how hard he played, how many times he hit the floor and got right back up, kept fighting. I was always a big fan, still am.”
It was a tribute that hit home with Wade in the moment, perhaps foreshadowing the selection of Iverson as his Hall presenter.
At the time, Wade posted on Instagram, “If you know me then you know how much this means to me. I remember being in my driveway trying to master A.I. Crossovers over and over until I got it right. After MJ, (Iverson) is my favorite player. One of two reasons that I wear the No. 3. I modeled my game after him and Mike.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has reported to USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas in preparation for his role as an assistant to Team USA coach Steve Kerr for the upcoming World Cup.
Team USA, which does not feature any Heat players, opens a five-game exhibition schedule Monday against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas.
The World Cup, which will deliver Spoelstra to his ancestral home of the Philippines, opens for Team USA on Aug. 26 against New Zealand.
The World Cup also will serve as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.