Dwyane Wade Considered Retirement During Heat’s Big Three Era

Throughout the years 2010-2014, the Miami Heat were at the center of the basketball world, and Dwyane Wade was a big reason why.

In the summer of 2010 as it is well-known, Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami to form the ‘Big Three.’ The dynamic trio would go onto make the NBA Finals all four years they were together, and won the championship back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. The three also shared a tremendous amount of personal success, as all three made the all-star team every year, while James went onto capture two NBA MVP’s and two Finals MVP’s. But for Wade, he had to arguably overcome the most adversity out of the three due to health concerns.

Wade was absolutely terrific in 2010-2011, the first season with the big three. He averaged 25.5 points per game and shot 50% from the field. Many believe that had the Heat won the 2011 NBA Finals over the Dallas Mavericks, Wade would’ve been named MVP of the series thanks to his 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game averages across those six games. This season was considered the height for Wade during this era in his career, and things started quickly to slip for Wade after that.

In 2011-2012, Wade’s points per game average dipped down to 22.1 points per game. He missed 17 games during this lockout shortened season largely due to knee injuries/general pain. It was that off-season where Wade made the decision to undergo surgery on his left knee, causing him to miss the 2012 Summer Olympics. He didn’t miss any regular season time because of the recovery from the surgery, but he missed 13 games in 2012-2013 once again due to issues concerning the knee. It was remarkable that Wade was still able to play every playoff game that year for Miami, but injuries effected his performances in the first three rounds of the playoffs until he averaged 19.6 points per game in the NBA Finals, including a 32-point performance in game 4.

The 2013-2014 season, the last year of the big three, was when Wade’s knee issues started to become a complete national conversation. The Heat and Wade agreed to a maintenance program that meant Wade would not play the majority of back-to-back games, and would sit out certain games that weren’t nationally televised. There was essentially a conversation every single night between Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and trainer Jay Sabol about whether or not Wade would be available to play that given night.

Wade’s inability to be available that year privately frustrated  Heat teammates, creating tension within the team. It’s likely part of the reason why despite making the Finals once again, Wade told Bleacher Report in October 2014 that the 2013-2014 season wasn’t fun:

“I don’t know,” Wade said when asked why he thought the season wasn’t fun. “It’s hard to say, man, because you want it. We wanted it. So it’s hard to say that. You don’t know exactly what’s going to come with it, but we put ourselves in that position. But sometimes you can put too much on yourself, all of us, and it becomes a black cloud around. Last year wasn’t fun. I mean, there was no stretch of it [that was] fun. That whole season, to me, it’s amazing we made it to the Finals. It’s just honest.

In some ways, the maintenance program worked for the Heat and Wade. While his points per game average dipped again, he shot a career-best 54% from the field. And while Wade missed 28 games because of the program, the Heat still captured the second seed in the Eastern Conference and won 50+ games. Were Wade’s knee issues likely part of the reason James decided to return home to Cleveland with the Cavaliers? Possibly. But Bosh decided to re-up with the Heat on a five-year contract in summer 2014, and help Wade essentially rebuild himself.

In 2014-2015, Wade still often missed games due to knee injuries. Overall that season, he missed 20 games, but returned to being a 20-plus points per game scorer at 21.5 points per game. In the present day, Wade doesn’t miss very many games anymore due to knee injuries. He started to stop missing games because of his knees in 2015-2016, when it took him until mid-January to miss his first game of the season due to injury.

It was the mental and physical strain during the big three era that was the toughest for Wade to cope with, however. He recently told the Los Angeles Times that because of his knee issues during the big three era, and likely particularly the 2013-2014 season, he considered retirement:

“My knees were in so much pain,” Wade said. “In my right knee, I had two sets of different bone bruises. I also had chondromalacia under the kneecap, which irritates the kneecap to the extent where it’s just more pain. In my left knee, I had three surgeries so I’m dealing with arthritis. I’m dealing with swelling and all the stuff that comes with that.

“It was a time where I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to be in pain anymore.”

James confirmed in the same interview that Wade was having these thoughts during that timeframe. As Wade gets set to walk away from the NBA after the conclusion of this season, the 37-year-old 13-time all-star is expected to play in 72 out of 82 possible games this season, and only missed as much time as he did because of paternity leave that spanned from November 7-18. For Wade to be able to walkaway fully-healthy is remarkable when you consider where he was at just four years ago.

“To have the career I’ve had, my whole role here, when you go back to Robbins, Illinois., you wouldn’t have seen this,” Wade said. “You wouldn’t have seen this kind of career. No one could have seen it.”

Wade is still having a big impact on the Heat as he gets to set to ride off into the sunset. With an emerging Justise Winslow out Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wade stepped up and scored 25 points, while also adding in 5 assists and 4 rebounds, helping Miami push towards the playoffs. At 34-36 on the year now, the Heat currently sit as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, and just two games back of the sixth seed.

Overall on the season, Wade is averaging 14.3 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 43% from the field. He needs 24 more three-pointers to set a career-high in three-point field goals made in a single-season.

Photo: Cassy Athena/Getty Images

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