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Heat’s Dwyane Wade savors final game in Chicago

The memories returned to Dwyane Wade as he stood in the visitors’ locker room for the last time as a player.

He remembered growing up on the South Side with drugs and gangs all around. He remembered moving to Robbins as a young boy and idolizing Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He remembered allowing himself to imagine a way out, a path to success and maybe even stardom.

“A lot of us had a ball and a dream,” Wade said. “And that ball and dream have taken us so many places.”

Now 37, Wade has announced he will retire at the end of the season. Although he spent only one of his 16 NBA seasons playing for the Bulls, few could argue his emotional connection to Chicago and vice versa.

Dwyane Wade is congratulated by Robin Lopez in the closing moments of the Bulls' 112-107 win over the Kings on Feb. 6, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

The Bulls honored Wade with a tribute video in the first quarter. Players from the Bulls and Heat craned their necks to watch the highlights of Wade’s 2016-17 season with the Bulls on the court and in the community.

Fans then gave a standing ovation to Wade, who smiled and waved both arms to the crowd.

“This city, this Chicago Bulls name, it means a lot to me,” Wade said. “It will always mean a lot to me.”

Wade might be the greatest player ever from the Chicago area. He said otherwise, pointing to Isiah Thomas as the city’s best all-time player. Then he mentioned other homegrown talents from his era, including Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson.

“Young D-Rose, I remember seeing him in seventh grade playing in open gym,” Wade said. “Everybody was like, ‘Man, he’s going to be something one day.’ You take a look at him, and then a couple of years later, he’s in the NBA playing against you.

“[There are] so many players who have come through this city that I love to watch and respect because I know how we grew up and how we had to learn to fend for ourselves and what it took to become successful.”

Bulls coach Jim Boylen has a picture in his office showing Hall of Famers he has known or coached. Wade is in the picture.

“I remember the first day when he came here, how respectful he was to the coaches [about] his opportunity and what we were trying to do,” Boylen said. “He’s a pro’s pro, a classy guy. I’m thankful I got a chance to be around him.”

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Wade’s return offered a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for Bulls fans.

But the future Hall of Famer offered a message to Bulls fans: Stay loyal.

“This is your team,” Wade said. “You continue to support your team as they go through this journey to get back to the top.

“This organization has won six championships. You’ve got most organizations in the NBA that will never win six titles. The success that this organization has had will not be touched by many at all. Of course, everyone wants it always. But it averages out. . . .

“I think the Bulls are trying to right the wrong. They’ve got some talented young players here, very talented young players. They’re trying to get it right. And you don’t know if you’ve got it right until you’ve got it right.”

If and when the Bulls get it right, Wade will be watching.

“I’ll be looking, as I get done playing this game of basketball, hoping they do,” Wade said. “Hoping they do get the chance to go back to the Eastern Conference finals and go back to the NBA Finals one day for this city.”