Rozier: Saying Goodbye to Dwyane Wade is ‘Going to be Tough’

MIAMI – Terry Rozier’s emotions may be a bit higher than usual Wednesday night, as his Celtics take on the Miami Heat. That’s because it will likely be the last chance for him to share the court with his childhood hero, Dwyane Wade, who is set to retire at the end of this season.

As he laced up his sneakers for shootaround Wednesday morning at American Airlines Arena, Rozier looked back on his plethora of head-to-head matchups with the Hall-of-Fame-bound guard over the last few years. He noted how special it was for him to have had those moments with his idol, as well as how much this final battle will mean to him.

“I think it’s just unique given how much I follow him, how much inspiration he’s given to me on the basketball side,” Rozier told Celtics.com. “He changed the game for me. Then I get to witness this one last dance, and today, the last game against the Celtics.”

Rozier’s love for Wade dates all the way back to 2003 – the year Wade entered the NBA. It was unusual for a kid from Youngstown, Ohio to worship any player other than Cleveland Cavalier forward and Akron native LeBron James during those days, but Rozier was completely captivated by the young man who was tearing up the court on South Beach.

Every trait that Wade possessed, Rozier wanted to adopt.

“Just how fast he was, you know, calling him “Young Flash,’ and how competitive he was,” Rozier recalled. “Just the things he was doing was just like, you couldn’t ignore it. And me being from Ohio, everybody loved LeBron. I was just a true D-Wade fan because I compare myself more to him than anybody else.”

As the years went by, Rozier established those same traits of being a speedy, highly-competitive guard, which allowed him to become one of the nation’s top recruits and to eventually land at the University of Louisville. That’s where his relationship with Wade transformed from idolization to friendship.

“He came to a preseason game in Louisville,” Rozier recalled of the first time he met Wade. “When he checked in at the hotel, he never even went to his room; he came and sat down downstairs with me for probably two hours. Just seeing that right there was enough – I could see what type of person he was, so ever since then it’s just been mutual respect and he’s been a big bro to me.”

Wade, who is averaging 14.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in his 16th NBA season, vividly remembers that first meeting as well.

“He told me how much of a big fan he was,” the 37-year-old guard told the Miami Herald in January. “He had all my sneakers — Converse, everything. He showed me he’s been a big fan for a long time, and we’ve built a relationship from there, even when he was in college. Just me reaching out to him, seeing how he was doing.”

Things got even more surreal for Rozier from there. In the second game of his second NBA season, the Celtics guard got to match up head-to-head against Wade for the first time. He recalls being like a deer in headlights when he checked into that game.

“Me first being out there with him,” Rozier recalled with a laugh, “I was kind of like, ‘Oh (expletive), I’m really out here with D-Wade,’ versus me actually going out there and trying to be effective and play.”

In all, the pair have faced off against each other 15 times, including five matchups during the postseason. Each battle has concluded with a post-game meetup on the court, including after the first matchup of this season when the pair swapped and signed their game-worn jerseys.

Their 16th and final matchup will be special in its own right, as they say one last goodbye.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Rozier. “But he’s going out with a bang, I’ll tell you that.”

addByline("Taylor C. Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow");