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MIAMI — On Saturday night in Springfield, Mass., Dwyane Wade will attempt to sum up a career in a matter of minutes during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But for the Miami Heat icon, there was more than a single chapter of his life, even of his basketball life.
Over the past two weeks, as former teammates passed through South Florida, they attempted to encapsulate the Wade experience, each offering specific perspective from Wade’s 2003 debut to his 2019 farewell.
Gary Payton already had played with his share of stars, from Shawn Kemp to Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O’Neal before he arrived in Miami at the start of 2005-06.
By then, Wade was two years into his NBA career, emerging as a whirlwind of scoring and leadership.
Payton jumped aboard in time for the Heat’s Wade-led run to the 2006 NBA title.
“I saw a special guy, you know what I’m saying?” the Hall of Fame guard said during the Big3’s recent appearance at Kaseya Center, with Payton, 55, now a coach in Ice Cube’s halfcourt weekend league. “Let me tell you when I really saw when he was really, really good was that championship (series) when he averaged 35 points. And I went to Shaq and I said, ‘Hey, Shaq, this young kid right here we’ve got to put him on our back and you just got to take a second fiddle to him right now. We’re older. We have to let this kid do it.’
“And that’s why (O’Neal) called him The Flash, because he was doing special things and we saw special stuff in him. And we just had to let it go. And he showed it year after year after that.
“I watched him the year before that, when they got beat by Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals and he was doing the same thing. I just said he needed somebody around him. And that’s what he got, he got players around that were around him to let him be the man.”
From the heights of that 2006 Wade fueled championship was a Heat drop all the way to 15-67 in 2007-08.
Then came the 2008 NBA draft when forward Michael Beasley and guard Mario Chalmers were added, with only Chalmers still around after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Wade to form a Big Three in 2010 that would go on to make four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and win titles in 2012 and ’13.
“For me coming in as a rookie, the two guys that kind of took me underneath their wing were D-Wade and UD (Udonis Haslem),” Chalmers, 37, said before his playing appearance with the Big3. “For me, in high school, D-Wade was one of my favorite players. To be watching him from Marquette do his thing and actually lace ’em up and be next to him and learn from him every day, to this day now, there’s nothing but love and respect for that.
“When it comes to The Mr. Miami Heat, it’s got to be UD, because he was born and raised in Miami. But outside looking in, it’s got to be D-Wade. I mean, he came here, won a championship in 2006, then repeated when ‘Bron and all them came. So he kind of solidified himself before the Big Three came, and then even after that, he still did his thing.”
And then James left in 2014. And then Bosh was sidelined and forced into retirement by blood clots.
As, all the while, Wade remained the connective tissue, even with his brief departure to the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Drafted by the Heat in the 2015 second round, guard Josh Richardson arrived to have Wade take him under his wing, appreciative that a player already on his Hall of Fame track was so willing to chart a course for the next wave.
“Honestly, I think he established himself as a Hall of Famer with one of those 2012, 2013 rings, with the things he was doing,” Richardson, 29, said Wednesday at the Miami Heat’s youth camp. “I remember, I was in sixth grade, watching him in ’06 in the playoffs, that Finals run, and I was like, ‘Brother, this guy’s insane,’ and just seeing everything he could do then. I mean it’s kind of historic for the shooting-guard position, if you think about it.
“I think he’s been an established Hall of Fame lock for at least seven years now. And everything else on top of that was just gravy in his career.
“We spent a couple of years together and he taught me a lot of things. And just seeing how he does things and seeing him compete, I feel like I can call him a friend off the court.”
By the time center Bam Adebayo made his Heat debut in 2017, Wade already was in his second season away from the Heat, at the time with the Cavaliers.
But in the middle of 2017-18, Wade returned, and Adebayo became a sponge.
The two would play together until it ended in 2019 for Wade with a career-ending triple-double at Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets.
After that, after Wade’s family would move to California to ease the career commute for Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union, even after Wade would join Utah Jazz ownership, there still was ample time around the Heat and around Adebayo, including this past season’s Heat run within three victories of an NBA championship.
So, yes, Adebayo will be in Springfield.
“That sounds crazy,” Adebayo, 26, said of his former teammate now being just days from induction. “I’m excited. I’m excited to be there. I’m excited to really give him his flowers. He definitely deserves it.”
Adebayo offered his thoughts at his Saturday youth clinic in Little Havana.
“He’s run this city, through championships and was at the top when he was here,” Adebayo said. “So, for me, man, I was just honored to really be his teammate. I’m honored for him to actually invite me to the Hall of Fame, for me to be there.
“And it’s going to be a surreal moment.”