BY IRA WINDERMAN
Dwyane Wade swallowed hard, just as South Florida has done for two weeks now, because this time the Feb. 14 Parkland shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School hit particularly close to home.
With sweat still dripping onto his workout jersey after the Miami Heat completed their Monday practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, Wade addressed a part of his basketball fame that left him emotionally drained, a tribute that he wished never was needed.
Earlier, Wade had learned that the parents of slain 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver revealed that their son was buried Feb. 17 in a Wade No. 3 Heat jersey, his parents discussing that decision on the Univision talk show “Al Punto.’’
Oliver became a naturalized American citizen in January 2017, months after Wade had departed the Heat, following his first 13 NBA seasons, to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls.
Then, after starting this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade returned to the Heat just six days before Oliver, who moved to the United States with his family at age 3, was gunned down.
“You really can’t put that in words,” Wade said in a measured tone while seated at the west end of the team’s practice court on the second level of AmericanAirlines Arena.
He added, “I don’t even know the word for it. Like I re-tweeted on Twitter, I said, ‘You’re going to make me cry.’ It’s emotional even thinking about that, that his parents felt that burying him in my jersey is something that he wanted. I take a lot of pride in what I’ve done in this state and what I’ve meant for the youth, so I appreciate that.”
Close to home
Among friends at Douglas High School, Oliver was known as “Guac,” a moniker that appeared on his Instagram account. His interests: football, basketball, the Venezuelan national soccer team, urban graffiti and hip-hop.
The tragedy hit particularly close to Wade, with his two sons attending school in Broward County, at American Heritage in Plantation.
It was the second time in two days that Wade emotionally discussed the shootings.
Tribute to victims
Prior to Saturday’s victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, the Heat offered a video tribute to each of the 17 lost in shootings, as well as a moment of silence.
Players from both teams held a Stoneman Douglas banner at midcourt, with Wade addressing the crowd.
“Tonight we honor the 17 lives that were tragically lost in Parkland,” Wade said to the crowd. “We applaud the fearless students that are fighting for their lives. We also make sure that their voices are heard around gun safety. You are our nation’s inspiration. We salute you and we support you.”
It was the Heat’s first home game since the shootings at the Parkland high school. The team will play with a “MSD” patch on the left shoulder of their uniforms for the balance of the season.