Flying home from Miami with Ava, my 13-year-old daughter, from Dwyane Wade’s last home game as an NBA player, I had much more emotion than I expected. The amazing memories, watching my kids growing up over the many Miami HEAT seasons, cheering our hearts out, the great night with friends year after year over the holidays, and now the realization knowing it was finally over for good. It was a special season of life for both of us, me and Dwayne, yet he never knew my name.
I could see my memories racing through my mind of all the great Dwyane Wade nights in American Airlines Arena over the past 15 years that filled an entire arena up to the brim with screaming fans all the way up to the nose bleed seats in Miami. I knew the whole time this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a crazy basketball fan like myself from Louisville, Kentucky, to feel a part of the five NBA championship runs we had in just 13 years that my family and friends enjoyed like religious holidays. Both may never happen again in my lifetime!
But what really surprises me is the deep emotional attachment to someone (like Dwyane Wade) that I really don’t know at all, and yet my life feels intertwined with his in a very personal way that matters to me more than I realized. When I was unpacking these feelings, I started to reflect on the very beginning of our connection that seems like a lifetime ago.
First, I relocated to South Florida full-time from the Midwest in 2002 with great apprehension. Dwyane followed me there from the Midwest two years later as well, as the fifth pick in one of the best and deepest NBA drafts of all time! Many in Miami were not excited about this Riley Selection but I had watched Dwyane torch my beloved Louisville Cardinals several times. But his national rise came from the NCAA game against Kentucky where he single-handedly beat a solid UK team by himself. I knew what was coming to South Florida by Riley’s bold selection – a new era – something they had never seen since the franchise started in 1988.
Secondly, I joined an organization, as an executive, that was really struggling at the time and had great uncertainty and needed a winning attitude and a new culture immediately. Dwyane joined the Miami Heat when his team was at a crossroads in many ways because seats were empty (I was there). The previous solid team of the past was becoming a distant memory and yet he took this challenge and made it a turning point to never look back. We all tried the same thing in our professional lives in our day jobs just up the road. I think everyone started dreaming bigger from this point forward – the Miami Heat and my healthcare leadership team.
Then we started to grow and learn to win as well while watching Dwyane win big down the road and that was my time and our place to celebrate – run down to AA arena and celebrate knowing we were all in His House for the night and we finally brought an NBA Championship to Miami!
The professional achievements we witnessed are staggering to process because his initial billing the day we drafted him in 2003 was not the next Kobe, LeBron, or Michael, but it was the personal side of Dwyane that made this different for me and all of us who were part of this epic time and run. Over these years we all got to know him personally because he allowed it while he shared his vulnerability with all of us, which was really the best part.
The personal growth we all witnessed in Dwyane Wade season after season made you relate to him in a multi-dimensional way, which rarely happens in sports. His humble basketball beginnings, trying to beat his brother/father in his driveway, we could all relate to. His deep loyalty to his family we all know is the foundation of our own values that we try to live today. His early academic struggles that he fought through had an impact on me, as I struggled greatly in high school with dyslexia. I see the impact of this in the screaming young kids at every game believing they can overcome learning obstacles too. His loyalty to a first-class organization like the Miami Heat, where he took big pay cuts to create the BIG 3 and never really wanted to leave, is a dying quality in the workplace that I still personally cherish as I received my 20-year pin last month at my organization. His painful divorce made you want him to find true love like he did with Gabriella Union, and we all felt part of as well.
As you watch the last dance with Dwyane Wade this year, you feel it all around you if you allow it – redemption, legacy, God, hope, love, loyalty, commitment, excellence, teamwork, family…….
As the loud speaker introduced Dwyane Wade for the last time in AA arena, I got chills because this was it…the end of a once in a lifetime era in South Florida…coming to a glorious and yet very sad close!
From the first big shot of his rookie year against Byron Davis, we were all in, no matter what the outcome was, for nearly 15 years. We were all part of Wade Country that brought great and beautiful diversity together like no other NBA arena in America that made us see how the world should be, not as it is!
As Hemingway, (with deep South Florida roots as well) once said, “These are the best of times and the worst of times.” It’s fitting because we all cared, we are sad, we know it will be different after the final horn sounded this night.
This is a football town with very limited historical basketball roots (this basketball phenomenon may never happen again in Miami – if you don’t believe me just ask the Dolphins fans about the last 20 years since Dan Marino retired – they have never recovered).
I did renew my HEAT season tickets knowing it will not be the same in my lifetime and loyalty matters to me like it does to Dwyane!
Anyone who was blessed to be up close and personal with Dwyane Wade knows that we were all impacted by him as a leader, player, father, community activist, teammate, and a MAN who was willing to grow with all of us, lead us to our promise land (NBA Champions), share himself with all of us the whole time, and profess his faith in the Lord in good times and in bad!
Thanks Dwyane Wade, can we finally get together for lunch since things are slowing down a little and let me tell you about what Dan Issel and the NBA2LOU movement are doing in a Midwest town called Louisville, KY, that you know pretty well already – we need you because we dream of bigger things here, like Miami did, and you know we know basketball like no other city in the world!
Dads and their Little Girls
Dads and their Little Girls
Dads watch their lives go speeding by, always asking GOD why?
Dads must survive the daily grinding;
Hoping that you and your baby girl hearts are slowly binding
Dads try to relive their lives through their boys;
But they spoil their little girls with all the right toys
Dads always hope that your little girl will keep them as “the apple of their eye”;
Knowing you’re building them so one day they can fly
Dads cherish their little girls like nothing else ever;
And they know it is truly their most noble endeavor
Dads will always guard their little girl like precious gold;
While quietly teaching them to be beautiful and bold
Dads carry many burdens that are often unknown;
But only a little girl makes them feel Iike a king where they sit on their temporary throne
Dads never really like the concept of another boy someday taking over;
But they support secretly hoping one day they might get another four leaf clover (granddaughter)
Dads know little girls are truly spiritual gems that change your life from day one;
Dreading the day the little girl phase is actually done!
Dads sit around talking incessantly about their girls 24/7;
Hoping that their good work was enough to get them into heaven!
Happy Sweet 16, Jacqueline Christine Rose Steier
There are bigger and crazier sport fans than I am, but I would still weigh in on the “serious supporter” side of sports enthusiasts, and the recent NBA talk around the city has really peaked my interest.
First, I want to be transparent upfront: since I returned to the city seven years ago, I’ve dreamed of a NBA team in my favorite city almost daily, and I push every chance I get to win over dinner party friends when the conversation heads that way. I would actually invest my “first communion” money in this dream if I thought it would help secure a franchise just to position Louisville and the Commonwealth as the potential “Basketball Capital of the World.” This would be the first thing I would brand out if I were Mayor or Governor. We are a city and state on the verge of breaking out especially when considering the news this week that we are a “top 10er” for best U.S. cities for jobs! The NBA if nothing else is a magnet for talent recruitment, an economic driver to enhance our growing workforce needs which will make the difference for more global industry relocation in our state—a “common” “wealth” goal for our city and state leaders!
Second, I am throwing my personal support as a community leader to help organize grassroots efforts, along with others, to bring professional basketball back to where its deepest roots were seeded decades ago by Kentucky pioneers, way before the NBA ever thought about becoming one of the most recognized brands in our first “Dream Team” World Tour in 1992!
Like you, I watch and listen, and I do understand the growing appeal of soccer around the world, and have been to many games locally myself. But it seems farfetched when most of us can’t even name the MLS All Stars from last season, and if we will ever get a Major League level team here. The recent MLS city selection process proved just that anyway.
On the other side, I get our beloved Bats deep roots that take us back to the Louisville Colonels at Parkway Field. But we knew we were only a minor league town and properly embraced it. As an avid baseball fan, I still see baseball on a slow death across the country and it needs to be structurally overhauled to keep future generations engaged in it, or it will look like Catholicism in Europe in a few more decades.
But regarding basketball, it’s a different story – we love it, we understand it, we breathe it, and we embrace it in any way we can get access to it.
First I am a diehard University of Louisville fan and consider my UofL ticket package as my “stay vacation” because I have loved our Cardinals irrationally since birth, like many of us. I can go back to my grade school days praying my Catholic prayers on my knees at the side of my bed where I would slide in a few Cardinal prayers, asking God if he would help us get our first NCAA title just to “shut up” my Big Blue classmates for once.
In my slowing maturity, I learned to love the Kentucky Wildcats years later when I moved away and quickly realized we need less “hate in this state” about our best Commonwealth assets, while outsiders across the country look at us with envy. I finally had the revelation that we need to shift our mental mode from “bitterly divided” to a theme of “unification and abundance” and just own our very aspect of “BASKETBALL INC” so we can celebrate basketball in any form! In the end, we just need more things to cheer for in Kentucky in general with the “theory of abundance.”
As a supporter, I think I understand the resources required to support our Two Crown Jewels of NCAA college basketball that are only 70 miles apart…and how blessed we are to have that “world class college” experience any time we want it or need it!
Both programs are revered around the country and I feel great pride traveling in my day job and talking them both up every chance I get! I often say Kentucky Wildcat Alumni could field the first two expansion teams by themselves with nearly 30 former Wildcats tearing up the NBA with Kentucky roots. That would be another world record again for us that we should claim!
On the flip side, many Commonwealth basketball enthusiasts are too busy cheering on their own respective teams, that they don’t realize our small state has held every major basketball title! The dynasty runs deep! In 2011 alone Bellarmine University won their first NCAA Division II title, the University of Pikeville Division III, not to mention UofK’s NCAA championship victory, and our Lexington-based Georgetown University winning the National Independent Association basketball title—all in the same year, along with the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky both with their steady top 10 annual presence—the state is already a basketball mecca—just needing to be claimed!
What other state in the U.S. could ever hold possible the honors of the “U.S. Title State for All Basketball” and “Most NBA Players from One State”?
We have many negative people saying no one would buy NBA tickets. Are you kidding me? We sell any real sporting event like no other place in America verified by the Breeders Cup and any PGA event including the Ryder Cup, despite being hard to get to by travel standards.
Personally, I have attended NBA games in over half the cities in the U.S., preferring basketball over food on my travel per diem since the early 90’s. In many markets, an NBA game is just another social outing option for many, or a corporate thank you gift to a vendor or management team, or your family ticket package divided with your church group, but here in Kentucky, “Basketball” is a TRUE RELIGION and SHOULD BE!
Perhaps it is silly but I actually believe that the NBA needs their Green Bay type city where the franchise has a kind of religious experience with everything they play and NBA watchers worldwide could see “true fanatics” that this game creates. We already have that in our DNA, from our intergenerational connected heritage, our elder’s storytelling passing the torch over family dinners, and in our daily lives where it is embedded in every day conversation because we ALL know BASKETBALL like no other city, state or country in the world!
To keep it simple, I don’t really understand the heated political debate about it, the complicated venue debate either, or the economic argument around something so fundamentally simple that we should claim ourselves as “The Basketball Capital and Basketball Mecca” for the world to find! Especially with our horse heritage in the Kentucky Derby, our expanding art community, new business “landings,” the bourbon explosion—our city is on the verge of breaking out into a top city in the nation and a destination spot to live in! Let’s be not only the greatest “two minutes in sports” but the greatest 48 minutes in basketball in the world!
We all need to just start celebrating great basketball all around us and move beyond our own bitter basketball rivalries. Go see a Bellarmine University game and tell me their energy isn’t better than anywhere in the country for D1 or D2. Even if you don’t like UofK or UofL, go to a home game at the other venue and observe the passion, or watch our crazy parents in youth basketball games and realize we love basketball for the essence of what it symbolizes to all of us!
This sport is a cultural experience that displays lyrical team chemistry when played correctly and is a game that can be played with cost effective economics without barriers to entry. It can be mastered by any size person, we learn life lessons about winning and losing, but more importantly to play by the rules and leave everything you have on the court!
We need to take back “our” basketball legacy, especially its capacity as one of the biggest future economic-drivers and brand it out: “NBA to Louisville,” “The Basketball Capital of the World,” “The Basketball Title State,” and “The Pro-Basketball Training Center.” All we ask is that they return our World Champion Kentucky Colonels back to us so one day we could be the first place in the world to hold all the important basketball titles in one state! And everyone can be a fan!
Please embrace the possibility of it, dreaming of something bigger than ourselves, imaging the greatest athletes in the world entering the Basketball Capital of the World. Let’s get serious about it because no matter what rumors you’ve heard, if “we build it they will come,” it is our own “field of dreams” because the NBA knows they have a brand on fire that must grow and breed success – and, as we know, there is no place like Kentucky in the world!