All the weekend’s festivities — from the legend-laden dinner on Thursday night to having Slam Dunk Contest runner-up Dennis Smith Jr. leap over him on Saturday night — it culminated with Sunday night’s All-Star Game.
The arena public address announcer declared, “All-Star Game MVP, Finals MVP, a three-time NBA champion and one of the greatest players in the history of the Miami Heat, a 13-time All-Star, Dwyane Wade!”
And the exhibition was underway. Wade got his first glimpse of action with 56.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Like on Wednesday, in the Heat’s last game before the break in Dallas, he checked in alongside Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was the other special roster addition made by commissioner Adam Silver.
Wade made a corner three early in the second quarter and connected on alley-oops with Philadelphia 76er Ben Simmons and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Wade was at peace knowing Sunday night’s All-Star Game was the 13th and last in his accomplished 16 years of NBA basketball.
“It has sunk in because this is a decision that I’ve made, to leave the game right now,” Wade said pregame with Los Angeles Lakers forward and All-Star captain LeBron James alongside him in an interview with TNT’s Kristen Ledlow. “Not being forced out, not being kicked out, walking away from the game with my head up high. I’m very thankful for all my opportunities to play with [James], to be linked to so much greatness and to be able to walk away knowing that I’m one of the greatest to play this game, I’m cool with it.”
Drafted by James to be on Team LeBron, Wade’s former Heat teammate that shared four seasons and two championships with him cherished the opportunity to play with him once more.
“Just being back on the floor with him one last time, one last hoorah,” James told TNT pregame. “It’s going to be a treat. The bitter part is that it is the last time, but the sweet part about it is how many memories we’ve had throughout the years.”
The genesis of the special roster additions for Wade and Nowitzki to the All-Star Game came from a unique source.
Silver, in his annual state-of-the-NBA address on Saturday, said the idea originated from a fan email he received.
“I asked my colleagues in the league office what they thought of it, and I spoke to both Mark Cuban, of course, the principal owner of the Mavericks, and Micky and Nick Arison at the Miami Heat, and asked them what they thought of the idea,” Silver said. “Everyone thought it was a wonderful idea, not mine. I was really just sharing it with them.”
With the groundbreaking idea of incorporating a retiring longtime league star into the All-Star Game, although Nowitzki has not publicly stated he’s definitely retiring at season’s end like Wade has, will this become a new norm in the NBA?
“I didn’t think about it in terms of the next year or whether there will be other opportunities,” Silver said. “I think that, as a league, I like to think we have the flexibility, when there are special occasions. And just to speak directly to those two players, I thought it was a very unique situation in which you had two NBA champions, two NBA players who had long, fantastic careers, both of whom had been All-Stars multiple times in their career.
“It just seemed like a wonderful opportunity to honor two greats without taking away an All-Star spot from a player who otherwise was voted from the fans or named by the coaches.”
This weekend, Wade said he felt honored to be around the next generation of the game’s greats, but he doesn’t take it as a passing of the torch.
“You don’t pass the torch. Guys take the torch,” said Wade, speaking as a shooting guard. “Kobe [Bryant] didn’t pass the torch to me. Ray Allen didn’t pass the torch to me. I’m not passing no torch to James [Harden] or Bradley [Beal]. They’re taking the torch. … I think we’ve done a great job of setting the bar a little higher, and they’re going to take it and keep going.”
Being among the NBA’s brightest current stars, Wade created his ideal NBA All-Star.
“LeBron’s mind, Paul George’s flair of the game,” he begins, “Kyrie’s handles, Kawhi’s hands, Westbrook’s athleticism, Embiid’s personality. Giannis’ height, length and Euro-step.”
Asked what today’s players can take from Wade, he said, “Maybe the ability to grow hair at 37. … I don’t know what it’ll be. Hopefully my heart, my will, something like that.”