MIAMI — Dwyane Wade looked into the camera, stood alone in the middle of a darkened room and talked for 10 minutes. He struggled with his words at times, unable to control his emotions. He wept.
And finally, he made what he called the hardest decision of his life.
One more year.
Retirement needs to wait a little bit longer for Wade, who announced Sunday night in a video taped earlier in the day that he’s returning for a 16th and final NBA season. He basically spent the entirety of the last four months weighing his options, and retirement — even just a few days ago — was an extremely real possibility in his mind.
“I’ve always did things my way,” said Wade, who is expected to sign a $2.4 million, one-year deal later this week. “Whether they’ve good or whether they’ve been bad, I got here because I’ve done things the way that I feel is right for me and right for my family. And what I feel is right … I feel it’s right to ask you guys to join me for one last dance, for one last season.
“This is it. I’ve given this game everything that I have, and I’m happy about that, and I’m going to give it for one last season, everything else I have left.”
Wade is Miami’s career leader in points, assists, steals and games played. His status was an enormous question mark this summer, especially now with the team a week away from going to training camp. Miami has signed 19 players for camp, one shy of the maximum preseason allotment, and it was never a question why they kept that last spot open.
It’s filled now, by the most accomplished Heat player ever. Yet it was no guarantee that Wade, a 22.5-point scorer for his career, would return.
His decision took longer than some expected, partly because he was deciding what he wanted to do, partly because he was dealing with some personal business and some family business, and partly because it took him and the Heat some time to figure out what made sense for both sides. A person familiar with Wade’s thinking told The Associated Press that the guard was strongly considering retirement until late last week, when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and others made a late push to help him decide.
Whatever they said worked.
“Can I physically do it? Can I physically get out of bed every day to do this? Can I step with every step hurting in the morning? Can I deal with the travel? Can I be away from my family? Is it selfish for me to want to continue to be away from my family?” Wade said, reeling off a list of questions that he pondered when making the decision.
He apparently found his answers.
“These things to you guys may seem small,” Wade said. “But to me, they’re real. I feel like my family has put me first for so many years, for good reasons. But there comes a point in time when we’ve all got to think about someone else, especially the ones around you that have supported you, supported your dreams, supported your journey like my family have.”
Wade’s return basically means that Miami will have the same team — a young, rising team it believes in many respects — this coming season as it had last season, when it went 44-38 and claimed the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This time, though, the Heat will have Wade from the season’s outset.
He spent 2016-17 in his hometown of Chicago, then began last season with Cleveland. Wade returned to the Heat in a trade last February, appearing in 26 games including playoffs, enamoring Miami again even while coming off the bench and averaging 12.9 points. His impact on the court was clear, and so was his impact off the court — Wade was very involved in the response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, including a student named Joaquin Oliver who was a Heat fan.
Oliver’s parents buried their son in a Wade jersey.
That touched Wade deeply, and he spent the latter portion of last season dealing with both the anguish of that and the death of his longtime agent Henry Thomas. Wade would eventually say that he felt lost at times last season without Thomas, that he wasn’t always getting the same joy out of playing the game as he once did.
“When I lost Hank, I lost a part of me,” Wade said, wiping away tears.
The plan going into this season will be to keep Wade in that reserve role like last season. While he likely won’t be starting, it’s fairly certain that he’ll be finishing them — Spoelstra utilized Wade as a closer last season, and Wade loves that role.
Wade could have gotten a deal elsewhere this summer, though moving to another team again was never a consideration for him this time around. It was Miami or nowhere.
“Let’s enjoy it,” Wade said. “Let’s have some joy through this last season. Let’s push this young team over the hump and let’s write our own story to the end of this career, together. Together.”