On Oct. 28, 2003, Miami Heat rookie Dwyane Wade nervously stood on the hardwood at the then-Wachovia Center preparing to battle against one of his idols, the 76ers Allen Iverson, in his first-ever NBA game.
“Being nervous, being anxious, being excited,” Wade said of his emotions on that day more than 15 years ago.
Wade, 37, is on a farewell tour. The three-time NBA champion and 13-time All-Star will retire at the end of the season. Though there are many memorable moments, and in each NBA city Wade relives them and says goodbye, Philadelphia is special to him because it is where it all started.
“My first preseason game was against Philly, my first regular-season game was against Philly,” Wade said Thursday morning ahead of his final game in Philadelphia. “The matchup always holds something special to me. Every time I come here, I remember my first time being here.”
In his first regular-season game, Wade and the Heat fell to the Iverson-led Sixers, 89-74. Though Wade’s team lost, the rookie out of Marquette made immediate waves with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds. He was on a mission.
“To show Miami that they did well by drafting me, I wanted to prove something,” he said.
Following last season’s first-round playoff loss to the Sixers, Wade considered hanging up his sneakers, but ultimately decided to give it one more year. Thursday night, he said goodbye to the place where his career began.
During a timeout midway through the first quarter, the Sixers paid tribute to Wade in a video on the big screen in which Iverson talked about how much Wade meant to the game.
“I’ve always been a big fan of his,” Iverson said in the video. “I still am."
Wade checked into the game after the timeout to a huge ovation from the crowd. Moments later, in true Philly fashion, the fans started to boo him when he touched the ball.