When Dwyane Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls this offseason as a free agent, that was a homecoming to the city he grew up in. When Wade, in Bulls uniform, returned to Miami for the first time, it was a different kind of homecoming.
Leading up to the game, a lot has been said about how Wade left and why. Nothing new in terms of information. Maybe just an official statement from Wade to something everyone knew: The Heat had different priorities. Whiteside, Durant, and if they had money and time left, Wade. By the time they got back to him with a contract offer, it was both too little and too late. Wade knew it was time to go, and after considering one very serious offer from the Denver Nuggets, he chose the Bulls.
And his return to the Heat wasn’t the kind of welcome LeBron James got in Cleveland when he played his first game there in Heat uniform. It wasn’t what Kevin Durant will face when he plays against the Oklahoma City Thunder in OKC for the first time. It was a standing ovation. Wade is the greatest player in the history of the franchise. One that’s been there through the three championships. If it wasn’t for him, there never would have been a big three. LeBron and Chris Bosh went to Miami because of Wade. He might not be the best player to ever play in Heat uniform, LeBron has that distinction; but he’s the greatest athlete in the history of the city. Yes, more than Dan Marino as well.
Wade didn’t play very well in Chicago’s 98-95 win over the Heat, their first road win of the season. Maybe the emotions got to him. He scored just 13 points on 5-for-17 from the field, probably his weakest offensive performance of the season. But the Bulls have a good enough team to survive without a big night from Wade, especially if Rajon Rondo (who I recommended stops shooting) is doing well. Rondo, who has been terrible this season and especially in the past few games, scored 16 points. Jimmy Butler finished with 20, Robin Lopez had 16, and the bench did the job. In the current Heat’s situation, there was no one to really match the Bulls aggressiveness. They might not want to be that kind of team, but their size and bullishness is probably their best asset against teams that can’t expose their flaws.
But the night was about Wade, and the love he got from the fans. I imagine he and Pat Riley, just like Riley and LeBron, are no longer friends or even something close to that. But Wade has an unbreakable bond with the Heat and the city of Miami. I don’t see him coming back, unless Riley is no longer with the team. But Wade has his closure with the Heat. He’s not obsessed about winning a ring or something like that. He wants to get paid, he wants to be treated like he’s important. In Chicago, he’s found that. It might not end with another championship, but for now, despite not looking like the smoothest team in the NBA, the Bulls are a happy bunch, and the doom & gloom predictions about huge egos getting in the way of winning are about as accurate as the predictions by “experts” regarding the elections.
So as Wade’s Miami jersey becomes a throwback and his Bulls Christmas day jersey is becoming more and more visible around town, those who still haven’t recovered from the “shock” of Wade playing from somewhere else finally got their statement of approval. A player coming back to face his previous team, the one he’ll always be associated with more than anyone else, and like many other greats who ended up leaving their team, he returned, he saw, he won.