INDEPENDENCE, OHIO - Dwyane Wade was raised in Chicago, grew up in Miami and is married to Hollywood.
But in order to return to the spotlight of the basketball world, the 12-time All-Star had to head to the bright lights of Cleveland, Ohio.
That may not be the case in Wade's mind. "I didn't say 'spotlight,'" he said with a smile when he interpreted a question from a reporter as a slight at his star status. "Don't put that on me."
But while he may argue the semantics, what Wade would agree with -- and even originally suggested -- is that the reason he decided to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week is that he missed the "moments" that accompany basketball's biggest stage.
"The moments, man," Wade put it.
"I'm a guy who, my whole career, I go to the Finals every year. Years I'm not in the Finals, I'm at every Finals."
For the past three years, that's meant annual June visits to Cleveland to see the LeBron James-led Cavs square off with the Golden State Warriors in a modern-day version of the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry of the 1980s. For the four years prior, Wade joined James in the NBA's championship round not from courtside, but on the floor, winning two titles on a Miami Heat team so famous fans referred to its players as "The Heatles."
The "moments, man" were aplenty -- both good and bad. The steady stream of ups and downs rivaled, at best, a roller coaster, and at worst, the rockiest of relationships.
On Friday, Wade glowingly recalled one of the worst games of his professional career, a 5-point effort against the Indiana Pacers in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals. "Everybody said I was done," Wade remembered of the Game 3 loss, which put the Heat down two games to one in the series.
He also happened to remember -- to a T -- that he bounced back to score 30, 28 and 41 points, respectively, in the next three games, helping close out the Pacers with three straight wins. Miami would go on to win the 2012 NBA Finals, the first of The Heatles' two titles.
"I miss that," Wade said. "I miss being in my room, not talking to nobody, feeling like the world's on my shoulder and then coming out and showing the world what I'm made of."
The moments, man.
But unfortunately for Wade, James took the moments with him when he returned to Cleveland in 2014. Wade, for his part, did his best to recreate his own for two seasons in Miami, but the best he could do was taking the Toronto Raptors to seven games in the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
A year ago, Wade admittedly chose money over the moments, as the Chicago Bulls' $23 million offer trumped the Cavs' veteran minimum. But when his hometown team made it clear it was heading for a rebuild this past summer, Wade was unwilling to wait. Initiating a buyout with the Bulls, which cost him $8 million in salary, the 35-year-old hit the free agent market eyeing one last run at glory.
The recruitment calls were plentiful, particularly from Oklahoma City, where Paul George and Carmelo Anthony pushed for Wade to join them with the Thunder. In the end, however, the pull of James was too much for OKC to overcome -- and not only because of the NBA megastar's friendship with Wade.
The moments, man.
"Those are the things that make me feel alive," Wade said. "Being on that big stage, being in those moments."
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