Dear Dwyane Wade,
You are one of my favorite players of all time.
As a guy who has always been obsessed with guards, from the Michael Jordans to the Kobe Bryants and the Derrick Roses, you made me love basketball in ways they never could.
When I was still a young kid, the first jersey my dad ever got me had your name across the back. I never shot a basketball without it on. It was like it gave me superpowers or something. Like as long as I had that three on my back, I couldn't miss.
You made me love the number 3. I tried to get that number no matter what sport I played. Whether it was lacrosse, basketball, or even football, if I could get it, I was wearing that 3. If somebody got that number before I did, then I wanted a number close to it or that added up to equal three. That's right, I was so obsessed that I'd pick 12 or even 21 just so that in my head, I knew I was wearing your number, even if it was not exactly like you.
I was obsessed with your athleticism, your grace, and the passion in your face during every game. To this day, I still replay your dunk on Anderson Varejao just to laugh at how effortless it looked.
It was like when you went up, the ball was always going to go through the hoop.
Reverse layup, Statue of Liberty jam, two hand flush, maybe even a little English off-the-glass for a little bit of sauce - it didn't matter how, I just always felt like it would go in.
Not that you need the defense, but I never could back those who said you were just "there for the ride" with Shaquille O'Neal or LeBron James. I just wasn't buying it. I still don't buy it. I've watched all your clutch buckets starting back at Marquette.
If anything, I felt like they needed you more than you needed them.
You gave Shaq another dominant guard like how Penny Hardaway was. You taught LeBron what championship basketball was like in a winning environment and an even better culture.
You built a legacy for yourself that easily places you amongst the greats.
With that, it was hard to watch you go, knowing this was your farewell tour.
Seeing all the jersey swaps with some of the league's best players - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, Lebron James, Donovan Mitchell, and many others - was tough. Even trading jerseys with your son Zaire, who I have been watching on the AAU circuit for the last year now, was hard to watch.
I still feel a rush as I watch the epic game winners and vintage Wade buckets, like the double clutch three to beat the Golden State Warriors, or the patent Wade back down-turn around jumper on the left block that looks practically unguardable. As I watched every moment, I just kept wishing this did not have to be the end.
You have never disappointed. There are enough vintage D. Wade moments to make a movie just of your highlight reel dunks, flashy passes, and epic game winners. Some will look at your career and just see the three championships, the over 35,000 minutes played or even the 21,000 points.
But to me, it will never be about the stats. It will be about the inspiration and grit you gave kids like me across the world.
You taught us that hard work would always outweigh pure talent on its own. That you could be great by your own means, not by the hand of others.
I wish I could've had a jersey swap. I wish I even could've gotten an autograph.
But I will never need those things to remember the player you have been.
To remember what you have done for me as a player, as someone who inspired me to love basketball the way I do. To remember how you embody black excellence and represent a league we all love as an ambassador of the game. I could go on and on about how much I love you as a player and a person, but I know all great things must come to an end.
You are a legend. One of the all-time greats. Wade nation and the NBA community as a whole will always and forever remember the name "Dwyane Wade."