'I'll always be a Heat': Wade reflects on leaving Miami
MIAMI >> Dwyane Wade still isn't totally ready to leave Miami.
He felt he had no choice.
The soon-to-be Chicago Bulls guard offered his side Saturday of the process that led to the end of his 13 years with the Miami Heat and deciding to play for his hometown team. Wade insisted he has "the utmost respect and admiration" for Heat President Pat Riley — who drafted him in 2003, coached him to his first title in 2006 and now played a role that led to him leaving a franchise that's clearly in transition.
And despite his anger about the breakup, he made clear that he will never bash the Heat or Riley.
"I love Pat Riley," Wade said. "He's been someone who's been a figurehead in my life since I got drafted here at 21. But at the same time, he has a job to do. He has a different hat to wear. That hat sometimes is not to be my best friend. That hat is to be the president of an organization and to be a businessman. And it sucks. You know somebody so well, you guys love each other, but the business side comes out.
"I'm not saying that we've hugged and cried and shed tears at this moment. But I love Pat. And I will always love Pat. And, you know, I know he feels the same way about me."
Since Wade announced Wednesday that he'll sign with the Bulls, he's felt countless emotions. He went past the arena the Heat call home Friday, blown away by the tribute the team was paying to him on external video screens. He couldn't believe how many people were lined up to buy merchandise with his name and number on the back. He choked up when he saw the full-page ad the Heat took out for him in South Florida newspapers.
"Moments like this, it sucks," Wade said. "The business side of the sport, sometimes it just sucks. That's what we're dealing with."
Miami offered just over $40 million for two years with hopes he stayed. Chicago landed him with a contract worth about $47 million for two years.
Wade was in a hotel room in New York when he made the decision to leave Miami, and before long he started seeing the video montages of his Heat career coming across screens.
It seemed funereal.
"They started playing tribute videos and I've assumed that's what it's going to be like when I'm no longer on this Earth," Wade said. "That's what it felt like. It felt like it really was the end of life.
"And I guess in a sense it's the end of life in Miami — as of now."
Wade won three titles with the Heat, leads the franchise in plenty of stat categories, was a 12-time All-Star in a Miami uniform. And there will be undoubtedly be speculation about a return one day, which is not out of the question. The Heat's ad thanking Wade included these words: "We'll leave a key under the mat for you."
"This ain't the ending of this book, but we got through a lot of chapters of this book," Wade said. "And this is a best-seller, for sure."
His sons and nephew that he's raising have mixed emotions about the move. His nephew was particularly leery, since he moved from Chicago to Miami for a better life — and now he's going back to a city that Wade knows has big problems with crime, particularly violent crime.
"At the end of the day, they will understand as they get older they will have to make decisions for their families," Wade said. "Some decisions are hard. ... Some are going to be seamless and easy."
This one fell into the hard column.
He drove around Miami on Friday with his hand out the window, grabbing at the warm air that he'll think about when in frigid Chicago this winter. He'll be in Chicago on Monday for a physical. He then heads to Los Angeles for the ESPY awards and business commitments before going to China for a week of promotional appearances.
As of now, the plan is for the Bulls to introduce him July 29.
So that will be Hello, Chicago.
If Wade gets his way, there will never truly be a Farewell, Miami.
"This is never goodbye to South Florida," Wade said. "The words, 'Heat Lifer,' I'm a Heat for life. I'll always be a Heat."
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