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Wade's off-the-court impact shines through in emotional video

The Heat hosted the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday in a game that affected Miami’s razor-thin playoff hopes. Before, during and after that moment, though, the night belonged to Heat icon and former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.

Tuesday’s game marked the 576th and final time he plays at AmericanAirlines Arena as the Heat were eliminated from playoff contention by evening’s end. Emotions were running high across the NBA world for a player who has not only excelled on the court, but made a vast impact off it. Throughout the season, Wade has swapped jerseys with today’s NBA stars, former teammates and some long-ago rivals.

Budweiser unveiled a video Turesday afternoon in which Wade receives five more special jerseys … with only one of them actually being a jersey at all.

In the video, Wade has “no idea who is coming”, only to find the people meeting him are fans whom he has helped in his off-the-court ventures. Each of the fans are waiting with items to swap with Wade, telling the story of how Wade impacted their lives.

One of the more powerful moments comes when the sister of Joaquin Oliver, Andrea Ghersi, talks with Wade. Oliver, one of the 17 victims killed in the Feb. 14, 2018 shootings at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was buried in his Wade No. 3 Heat jersey on Feb. 17. Ghersi shares how the family decided to give Oliver’s high school jersey to Wade.

Other guests include a man who was helped by some words from Wade “12 years ago”, a woman who was treated to a Christmas shopping spree by Wade after her house burned down 10 days before Christmas and another woman who was able to attend college thanks to Wade’s scholarship.

Wade’s mother, Jolinda, spoke of how Wade stood by her as she fought to overcome her past as an inmate, a drug user and drug seller. She praises her son for that and for helping her buy a church — the Temple of Praise in Chicago — in 2008.

Aside from that video, Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks in an interview published by the NBA’s Twitter account about what Wade means to him.

“I wasn’t easy to play for, but I think everybody felt that I wanted the very best for them,” Riley says in the video. “And I think Dwyane, from the very first day, I just loved his competitive nature. He’s special, really unique and special. So how do I feel about him? I love the guy. I’ve been around him 16 years and there isn’t anybody that ever played in Miami that will have a bigger legacy than Dwyane. Nobody.

“I think everybody saw something absolutely unique athletically. He was the best in the world in 2006, above everybody. It’s going to be a sad day when he retires. It really will be. But it will be a great day for him because he knows he’s gotten everything out of the game. A player of his generation unlike any other.”

Tributes came last night in various forms. There was a pregame series of events inside the arena. There were videos. Wade addressed the crowd before and after the game. Celebrities were in attendance. Wade’s children were in attendance. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the school where the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre that left 17 dead in an event that touched Wade so deeply — not just because Oliver was buried in a Wade jersey — performed the national anthem.

* Re-live Wade’s season-long jersey swaps

For Wade, after 16 seasons as an NBA player, after three championships, an almost-annual spot in the All-Star Game, a scoring title, three franchises, four children, an Olympic gold medal and 161 teammates, the end may have arrived.

“I gave this game everything I had,” Wade said recently. “And I have appreciated every bit of it.”

“It’s been incredible. It’s been amazing,” Wade said. “A lot of people in that arena have watched me grow, have watched me be imperfect, have watched me make a lot of mistakes in life, as well as watched me blossom and watched me do amazing things, great things. I’m thankful for it.”

Wade “L3GACY” shirts were given to fans last night, some of whom spent thousands for their seats. In addition, there were Wade commemorative lanyards and Wade apparel. Some arena workers asked if they could be excused from wearing the usual game-night garb and don Wade jerseys instead. Fans flew in from as far as Australia and China. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent his regards in a video.

Wade is beloved in Miami, of course, for obvious reasons. Beloved in Chicago, too, his hometown. Beloved in Milwaukee, where he took Marquette to a Final Four in 2003.

And this farewell tour — the “One Last Dance” — is a league-wide victory lap for someone NBA players rave about.

“A legend,” Toronto’s Kyle Lowry said.

“Still amazing,” Dallas’ Luka Doncic said.

“My idol,” Washington’s Bradley Beal said.

“A leader,” Detroit’s Wayne Ellington said.

“True winner,” Phoenix’s Devin Booker said.

Wade isn’t 2008 Wade, or Big 3-era Wade, or NBA Finals MVP Wade anymore. But he’s still superb, and with a flair for the dramatic — such as the buzzer-beater to top Golden State a few weeks ago. He’s been the best Heat player all season. It’s hard to imagine how Miami will replace him next season, because he is going to be clearly missed.

But that’s also part of the reason why this season is his last. Wade didn’t want to go out as a shell of his former self. He wanted to leave the stage with the fans clamoring for more, and that is precisely what has occurred.

“That’s the sweet part of it, seeing him be able to go off on his own terms, saying when he’s done,” said his former teammate and still-close friend LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Nobody forced him out or did anything of that nature. He’s able just to hang it up when he was ready to hang it up and be at peace with it all.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.