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Dwyane Wade Honored at The AmericanAirlines Arena

By DeAndré Phillips

It was a picturesque moment for Dwyane Wade on Thursday. With the gold medal hanging proudly around his neck, Wade emerged from a shower of red, white, and blue confetti amidst 2,000 jubilant HEAT fans who gathered to give him a hero’s welcome.

Wade, who helped Team USA win gold in this year’s Olympics, was honored with a banner unveiling at the AmericanAirlines Arena. The banner will be displayed alongside the HEAT division and NBA championship banners.

HEAT President Pat Riley was in attendance and offered inspiring words about the four-time HEAT All-Star. He said he is looking forward to a completely healthy Wade rebounding this season from knee and shoulder surgeries to being among the elite once again.

“In my humble opinion,” Riley said addressing the crowd, “and I’m not biased, I’m knowledgeable. I think Dwyane Wade is the greatest player in the world.”

City of Miami Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz were also in attendance and awarded Wade with the Key to the County.

Wade admitted to getting teary-eyed during the celebration and said the banner is one of his most crowning achievements.

“Every time I look up there, I’m never going to get over it,” he said. “I’m going to look up there and see I have a banner for something that I’ve accomplished. It’s going to bring chills to my body.”

Wade led Team USA in scoring, averaging 16.0 points while shooting 67.1 percent from the field. The 2006 NBA Finals MVP had his best moment during the gold medal match versus Spain, where he finished with a game-high 27 points and made key plays on both sides of the ball to help Team USA win, 118-107.

After earning a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Wade said winning gold in Beijing puts the honor on par with the NBA championship he won in 2006.

“They both hold a special place in my heart,” he said. “There are people who still until this day haven’t won a championship. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to get one and a gold medal as well. I’ve been blessed that God put me into position to do both.”

Now, the sixth-year pro is turning his attention to the upcoming NBA season. With a mix of talented, young players and proven veterans, Wade is optimistic about what’s in store for the HEAT. He compared this year’s team to the 2003-04 squad that featured a young Wade, Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Rafer Alston, Eddie Jones and Brian Grant. That team finished 42-40 and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Wade said that a season doesn’t necessarily have to culminate in a championship for it to be successful.

“This is the beginning of the building process, but we’re starting at the front,” he said. “We have enough on this team to have a good year. Like my rookie year, we didn’t win a championship, but it was a special year, a memorable year for the franchise, for the players who I played with. Special years don’t always end in championships.

“We can assure you guys that this year is going to be special; it’s going to be different. We’re going to have fun again in Miami,” Wade said to the crowd.

Wade, however, is not the only HEAT Olympian to whom the HEAT will pay homage. Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, who helped the US win gold in the 2000 Sydney Games, will be honored in a similar ceremony later this season.

Despite the fame and accolades from being a superstar player, Wade still finds himself in awe of his accomplishments.

“Having the opportunity to come from Robbins, IL to go to China, go to the Great Wall, doing things in life that you never even would dream or envision you would do, but you can,” he said. “It’s amazing. I feel blessed in many different areas in my life outside of basketball.

“I’m still living in the gold moment.”