Miami Herald – Michael Wallace – August 1, 2010 – Dwyane Wade’s work in the community includes the Summer Groove, which he leads along with Alonzo Mourning. It was only weeks ago that Irene Brodie sat on her living room sofa in suburban Chicago, leaned over a coffee table and sorted through photos and articles chronicling one of her town’s favorite sons.
Her mind was focused on the task — putting together a collage commemorating what was going to be Dwyane Wade’s triumphant return to Chicago to follow in the legendary, Nike-sneakered footsteps of Michael Jordan and restore the Bulls to elite-level status.
It was set to be a full-circle celebration for Brodie, who was mayor of the Chicago suburb of Robbins, Ill., when Wade left to attend college at Marquette in 2000 and is marking two decades in office this year.
Wade had other plans, opting early in July to join free agent stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh for a championship quest with the Miami Heat.
“This will always be home for him, and he’ll tell you he’s from Robbins,” Brodie said. “But I guess if I want to see him play, I better get down there to Miami.”
Wade is scheduled to return to Chicago later this month to host his annual Wade’s World Foundation weekend of charity events. It will be Wade’s first public appearance in the city he spurned after visiting the Bulls twice and indicating serious interest.
Wade has said a big part of his heart — and family — will always be in Chicago, but there’s no doubt now where his loyalties reside.
After committing to the Heat for another six seasons — and recruiting James and Bosh to join him in Miami — Wade is as entrenched in South Florida as sunshine, sand and salsa.
Wade, 28, was already approaching the regional iconic status of Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino after leading the Heat to an NBA title in 2006. But his role in helping the Heat execute the most controversial free agency coup in NBA history may have established him as the No. 1 figure in South Florida sports.
“Across all sports, in terms of his impact, [Wade] was top five down here already,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach County-based sports psychologist who has worked with professional athletes and teams. “As great as Marino was, he never won a championship. If Wade is able to do it again, with what they’ve got in place, he would solidify himself at the top.”
MAN ABOUT TOWN
During a recent appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Wade said the buzz around Miami is even greater now than after the Heat won its lone title four seasons ago.
Wade also said his decision to take less money — he will earn $107 million over six years compared with the $110 million Bosh and James will get — has been appreciated around town.
With all three players agreeing to take $15 million to $20 million less than the maximum they could have received under league rules, the Heat retained money to fill out a solid supporting cast.
“Everywhere you go, everyone is excited about the opportunity,” Wade told Kimmel, marveling at how often his dinner tab is picked up all around town. “I haven’t paid for anything. That loss [in contract], the city is going to help me get it back. It’s going to be fun.”
Even with the Heat still months from its late October season opener, its three stars have already taken a national victory lap of sorts. There have been talk-show appearances and red-carpet treatment in Los Angeles, star-studded parties in Las Vegas and even an instant declaration by Sports Illustrated that the Heat are one of the top 25 most reviled teams ever.
Wade welcomes the challenge.
“Bring it on,” Wade said during the July 9 news conference at which James and Bosh also signed their new contracts. “We play this game to have that competitive nature, competitive juices. We don’t expect [teams] to say, `OK, Miami’s won it. We don’t want that. I expect people are going to say [negative] stuff. And we accept it with open arms.”
Miami returned the love in a public embrace that capped months of waiting for Wade, who a year ago was in the midst of a public spat with team president Pat Riley about a lack of roster upgrades going into the 2009-10 season.
Wade also dealt with lawsuits over failed business ventures, including a doomed restaurant chain. Even more serious were bitter divorce proceedings and custody issues over his two young sons that dragged on for nearly two years.
“It’s been a lot of stuff I had to deal with, grow through and realize what I was about and what people around me were about,” Wade said. “But I had to go through it for a reason. Everything I went through made me a better person, and I think people see that.”
The down times gave way to better ones. In January, Wade embedded himself deeper in the South Florida community when he joined with former Heat center Alonzo Mourning to raise more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
A month later, Wade was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA All-Star Game, playing before a record crowd of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas.
It was during those All-Star weekend festivities that Wade, Bosh and James practiced and played on the Eastern Conference team, and also further entertained the idea of uniting as free agents if the chance arrived.
“His leadership ability certainly came to the forefront in this whole thing,” said Chicago-based agent Henry Thomas, who has represented Wade and Bosh since they decided to enter the 2003 NBA Draft. “He’s shown himself throughout the league to be the player and person Chris and LeBron wanted to play with.”
Thomas said the way Wade handled himself through his legal matters and family issues also showed a humility that resonated with Miami fans.
“He’s been through some things off the court human beings go through,” Thomas said. “He’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. He’s been classy the way he handled that adversity. And I’ve got to believe folks in Miami see that and recognize that beyond what he does on the court, he’s a human being that’s pretty special.”
Hope you enjoyed this story with a touch of sports psychology.