This story is about
, High school sports reporter
Dwyane Wade took the American Airlines Center court Wednesday night against the Mavericks to a loud, long cheer.
It wasn’t the greeting most expected for the Miami Heat star, who’s playing his last season. After all, Wade is one of the most despised players in Dallas after two NBA Finals clashes with the Mavericks.
But that’s what happened when Wade took the court — at the same time as Nowitzki.
Soon, it became clear the applause was for the 40-year-old Nowitzki because boos and jeers sounded from the stands almost every time Wade touched the ball in his 22-minute, 22-point outing.
But Wade said before the Mavericks’ 112-101 loss he wouldn’t mind a potentially negative reception. Instead, he repeated his respect for Nowitzki and reminisced on career highlights in Dallas.
“There’s a lot of memories here for me, and I’m thankful those memories,” Wade said. “Because of them, I’m able to walk away from the game with my head up high.”
The reactions contrasted the appreciation other fanbases have shown Wade, 37, as he’s traveled from Miami in what he’s already deemed his last season.
But the emotions in Dallas reflected the Mavericks’ complicated history with Wade. Wade won his first championship with the Heat on Dallas’ court in 2006 and said he can still remember the hotel Miami stayed in and the walk to the game.
During pregame warm-ups Wednesday, Wade re-enacted his ball heave at the buzzer of the decisive Game 6 and recalled details from the post-game celebration in the visitors’ interview area in the bowels of the arena.
“Very drunk off champagne,” Wade said while standing in the same area Wednesday. “This is [where] we were celebrating. You remember all those things.”
The Mavericks and Heat battled again in the 2011 Finals. While the Mavericks triumphed in six games, Wade and LeBron James mimicked a cough to question whether Nowitzki was actually sick before Game 4.
“Brings back a lot of memories,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during a Wednesday morning shootaround. “Some unbelievable ones, some painful ones.”
Dallas fans made clear Wednesday they still remember the slight to their star nearly eight years later.
But neither side dwelled on the past before likely the final regular season game between the two franchises with Wade and Nowitzki on the rosters.
After the two entered together, they each found early looks. Wade hit a 3-pointer over Nowitzki and then Nowitzki bounced in a fade-away attempt versus Wade. Perhaps it served as a warm-up for Sunday, when the two will face off in the All-Star Game as legacy honorees on opposite teams.
Before departing for Charlotte and the All-Star break festivities, the two traded jerseys on the court — maybe the most sentimental moment in their lengthy history.
“I’ve never really swapped jerseys right after a game, so it felt a little naked … in my tank top,” Nowitzki said. “It was a cool moment, obviously, and it’s been a long time coming.”
On Twitter: @CallieCaplan