What to Know
- NBC 6 Sports Anchor Stefano Fusaro gives a unique look at going from a fan of former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade to covering him as his job.
We have a funny way of believing we understand the intricacies of an athlete’s mind, until of course they prove us wrong. The NBA has been a prime example of this, with the offseason being as dramatic as the Finals, and better entertainment than any reality show...ever. Few moves have been more jaw-dropping than Dwyane Wade deciding to leave the Heat.
After 13 incredible years, 12 All Star appearances, 11 postseasons, 5 finals and 3 championships, D. Wade said good bye. I had the unique experience of becoming a professional in the sports media business in Miami at the same time the future hall of famer began playing his games on Biscayne Boulevard. Therein began my 13-year balance between fandom and objective media opinion.
This reached its apex this week, when the Heat captain decided to head back to his hometown of Chicago. Being on air all week leading up to his decision, the days were busy and frantic. But checking with contacts, making phone calls and being glued to Twitter was just half of my responsibility. My generation of "Miamians" has grown up with Wade in our lives. From high school or college all the way through our early 30s, the Heat were always a topic of conversation. A group-chat of my closest friends, nicknamed "DCG" (embarrassing inside joke) was a place of shock and fear in the week leading up to Wade’s departure.
All week long I found myself writing my Wade scripts for the newscasts and then virtually rewriting them on my phone, to more or less keep the peace. You know, making sure my friends were taking steps back from the ledge. Surely Miami’s prodigal son would never leave. As most of the local media, I truly believed Pat Riley would figure things out and our 3-time champ would be back where he belonged. So that was my message to my friends, and despite things looking grim, still kept that positive vibe on air.
Then, that terrible moment. When the inevitable "Woj-bomb" came down and said, "Wade has informed Chicago he intends to sign with the Bulls." A tweet of "Sad day in Miami" quoting the awful news came from my account, and a screen shot of said tweet to my group-chat happened almost on auto pilot. Right then is where everything flashed before my eyes, no pun intended. I wasn’t ready to let go of the basketball player I knew the most about. The guy who I had developed a professional relationship with, and grown up around, was not going to be wearing my team’s jersey anymore. "DCG" was a chaotic place, and I was speechless.
The shock and awe came raining down quicker than 2003 Wade streaking down the floor. Most of the media was saying "Thank You" to their superstar. I wasn't quite there yet. I had to digest this the only way I knew how.
Back in the group-chat, my friends reacted. "How could they let this happen?" "@%$& Riley!" "&%@# Wade!" "I’m going to miss him so much." "How can he leave us?" "He’s going to hate winters back up in Chi-town!" "It’s better for the Heat in the long run." The 5 stages of grief in about 5 minutes from 10 friends that have grown up defending their Heat captain until we were red in the face. It was heartbreaking. It wasn't until after that group conversation that I was able to come to terms with it and put my media hat back on.
The impact Dwyane Wade has had on the South Florida community went far beyond the basketball court. He unified a generation, and brought us closer together in times of both joy and pain. He became synonymous with Miami. We got the tail end of Dan Marino, and couldn't fully identify with him. We wondered if a guy like that would ever come again. Until Wade fell in our lap, and gave us three pot and pan celebrations, and one hell of a 13-year ride. My experience is unique because I truly got to converse and understand Dwyane Wade, the person. I won my first Emmy Award for our coverage of the 2012 championship celebration, when Wade poured champagne on my head in the locker room. So professionally, the guy has meant a lot to me. Though nothing compares to the moments my friends and I had, just watching him BALL.
"This isn’t the ending of this book, but a lot of chapters have been written. It’s a best seller. I wouldn’t do much different at all," said Wade as he spoke to the local media one final time over the weekend. Miami didn’t expect for this chapter to have a painful ending, but the first 13 chapters alone, are worthy of a Nobel Prize.
Thank you, Dwyane.