OAKLAND — After the Golden State Warriors finished off a 120-118 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday, Dwyane Wade sought out Stephen Curry.
After going just 1-for-4 in the first quarter, Curry finished the game 9-of-18 for 25 points, his 36th 20-point performance in a season that’s been arguably his best since his unanimous MVP year. As Wade waded through the crowd, he hugged Kevin Durant, but when he found Curry, he peeled off his jersey. Curry did the same.
During his season-long farewell tour, the retiring Wade — now Miami’s sixth man after 13 All-Star seasons — traded jerseys with Golden State’s All-Star point guard, as he’s done with marquee players across the league. In Wade’s last game at Oracle Arena, he paid tribute to Curry, but the Warriors also paid tribute to him.
“Everywhere he’s gone, he’s going to be watched on TV, and it’s a different energy when he gets the ball,” Curry said after the game. “We understand how important he has been to the game throughout his career. No matter who you root for throughout the league, you respect greatness.”
Curry went so far as to say that Wade — averaging 14.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his final season — could continue to play, if he so chose. Against Golden State on Sunday night, he went 5-of-14 for 10 points, adding six rebounds and a team-high nine assists.
“Tonight wasn’t a loud night, but he had some pretty influential plays, and it seems like he’s got a lot more in the tank,” Curry said. “That’s what I told him after the game, ‘Are you sure? I know you got a lot of stuff going on off the court with family and all that. Are you sure you don’t have a couple more years left in there?'”
While Curry got the honor of exchanging jerseys with Wade, it was Draymond Green — who had a game-high 14 assists — who had perhaps the most significant connection with the 36-year old Wade.
“D-Wade was an inspiration for me,” Green said. “You talk undersized, when D-Wade came into the league, he was an undersized two-guard. He beat all odds. Finals MVP. Three-time champion. A million All-Star appearances, a million All-NBA teams, I think D-Wade made a few All-Defensive teams if I’m not mistaken. He’s had an incredible career. What he’s done for that organization, it’s been amazing, and yet, he’s still out here, this year, playing well.”
Green noted that, three years ago, Wade — who played for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers while playing in a then-career-low 22.9 minutes, averaging a then-career-low 11.4 points per game and shooting a then-career-low 43.8 percent from the field — was considered by many to be washed up.
“You kind of wondered, ‘Is it over?'” Green said. “He just battled back from that, and it’s good to see a guy who was as great as D-Wade was, close out on a strong note, the way he’s playing this year. It’s great to see him go out like that. You hate to see a guy limp out of the game. There are some kids that will see some of these older guys and be like, ‘Ah, man, he sucks.’ If you knew that guy five years ago […] that’s just the nature of the business. I think D-Wade’s playing amazing this year. It’s good to see him go out on a high note.”
Before the game, Kerr, too, reflected on Wade’s 17-year career.
“He’s a brilliant player, and amazing to watch, made a huge impact on the NBA,” said Kerr, who played his final season the year Wade was drafted in 2003. “I’m happy that we are honoring him in his career tonight. I think it’s appropriate. He’s one of the stars of this league who has really given the fans a lot of thrills over the years, so it’s very appropriate.”
Wade, for his part, appreciated the plaudits, including the 45-second video tribute Golden State produced that ran midway through the first quarter, a tribute followed by a standing ovation.
“It was great, man, it was amazing,” the 2006 NBA Finals MVP said. “They really put some thought into that. Afterwards, I said to my teammates that it was dope. It was a great tribute. I appreciate Steve Kerr and the Golden State organization and the fans for the ovation. It was a fun environment to play in.”