Heat’s Wade embracing final years of Hall of Fame career

Associated Press

February 14, 2016

         

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, drives as Toronto Raptors' James Johnson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Jan. 22nd in Toronto.

TORONTO - Dwyane Wade already thinks about it.

Of course, he does. Why wouldn’t he at this point in his career? He realizes he can’t play basketball forever, so thoughts about the day he will retire cross his mind.

It became even more of an emphasis with Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant calling it quits being the storyline of this year’s NBA All-Star weekend.

“I think about it because of I’m thinking, ‘Man, Kobe is going to retire,’ ” Wade said Friday. “This is it for him and then you realize at that moment, it’s real, that it comes to an end.”

A 13-year veteran, Wade is set on making the most of what’s left of his career. Although the tank is far from empty, he knows this is the time to soak in much as possible. Moments such as playing in a 12th All-Star Game on Sunday at the Air Canada Center are just more memories to add to the collection.

“That’s why I told you guys I’m enjoying these moments a lot more,” Wade said. “I’m enjoying the season a lot more. I’m enjoying the All-Star Game a lot more. I know one day I’m going to have to do the same thing as Kobe. I’m going to have to say that I’m walking away from the game.”

Wade used a superhero analogy to describe life as a professional athlete. Like Superman, no one expects their heroes to age. Fans believe Wade will be able to dunk and hit the pull-up jumper forever.

Unfortunately, his life isn’t a comic book. Even if so, his Hall of Fame career is well into the final chapter.

In a few years, Wade will experience a similar moment as Bryant, who drew the largest media crowd throughout the week for his farewell.

“Like I said, Kobe was a superhero,” Wade said. “He’s supposed to be able to just keep playing and keep playing but it doesn’t happen that way.”

Wade is the first to say he isn’t going to play another 12 All-Star games. After years of fighting it, he now readily accepts the “vintage” references each time he reverts to his younger playing days. He’s in a position where the new school stars of the game are looking to grab the baton.

“I really watched D-Wade when he was in college and his early years,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said.

“It’s definitely weird seeing him now. We’re all going to have to be there one day. You just have to be ready for it. All of the older guys tell the younger guys just to be prepared for it and enjoy every single moment of this as you can.”

That’s not to say Wade is willing to fade away quietly. He was voted as an All-Star starter for the 10th time and has shown flashes of the Wade of old.

Even though his 18.7 points a game are his lowest average since his rookie year, he still leads the Heat in scoring. A decline in numbers across the board hasn’t prevented Wade from having sort of a resurrection. He spent much of the past four seasons battling nagging injuries, causing some to believe his body was wearing down.

This year, Wade has missed just two games due to health.

“One thing I’ve gotten a lot from the players is, ‘It’s good to see you healthy. It’s good to see you doing what you’re doing and stay healthy,’ ” Wade said. “First, you think, ‘Man, was it that bad? But secondly, it shows you the respect that I have from my peers.’ ”

Wade refuses to speculate on how many years he has left. He’s just not sure if he wants all the hoopla associated with Bryant playing his final season.

“I can’t say I want that,” Wade said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m not the person to look and say I hope that happens for me. I have my own path, my own journey. When it’s time for me to stop playing, whatever comes. Maybe no one even notices that I’m leaving. I don’t know. I can’t care about that. At the end of the day, I know the people of Miami are going to love me.”