Story by Christopher Taylor, sophomore at SJBP STEM Magnet High School Program.
On April 5, 2003, Dwyane Wade capped off a standout college career by leading the Marquette Golden Eagles to New Orleans to face the Kansas Jayhawks in the national semifinals in the Final Four. Wade finished with 19 points, in a 94-61 loss.
Almost 16 years later Wade played most likely his final basketball game in New Orleans – unless the teams somehow meet in the postseason NBA finals – and again scored 19 points, had six rebounds and two assists to help lead the (13-16) Miami Heat to a 102-96 victory over the (15-16) New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday evening at the Smoothie King Center.
Wade plays mostly off the bench for the Heat, but he is still productive and Sunday he proved it. It was almost like a going-away party for Wade in New Orleans.
Wade, who was drafted by the Heat fifth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft and helped lead the Heat to three NBA titles in 13 years, announced in September he was playing for the Heat for his final NBA season, his 16th overall. He also has played for his hometown team the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Many fans showed up at the Smoothie King Center repping their favorite Wade gear and holding Wade posters proudly throughout the arena. With seven minutes, and 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Wade checked in and received an enormous ovation from many hometown fans and Heat fans that were present. When Wade scored his first basket with about three minutes remaining in the first most of the crowd roared.
With so many fans showing support, Wade answered them. The Heat bench outscored the Pelicans bench 58 to 20. Wade played a huge part in that, scoring his 19 points in 23 minutes off the bench.
The Pelicans had a 41 percent field goal percentage and the Heat had 42, so bench points played a big part in the Heat victory. Wade finished as Miami’s seconding-leading scorer, at one point averaging a point a minute when he had played 17 minutes and scored 17 points. Wade shot 50 percent from the field and 3-point line (3-for-6) 100 percent from the free-throw line (4-for-4).
Wade’s final basket of the night was memorable. The Heat lead by six points and was in need of one more clutch basket to close out the game. Wade drove the lane and made a tear-drop shot over shot-blocking big man, Anthony Davis.
As Wade walked off the court into the locker rooms for the final time in New Orleans, the remaining fans chanted loudly, “D-Wade, D-Wade, D-Wade”.