Dwyane Wade’s final home game for the Miami Heat was an emotional affair, with tributes pouring in from his family, friends and former teammates, and even Barack Obama.

By Rohan Nadkarni
April 12, 2019

Dwyane Wade’s final home game for the Miami Heat was an emotional affair, with tributes pouring in from his family, friends and former teammates, and even political dignitaries. The Heat arranged a pregame ceremony for Wade, and then continued to honor him throughout the night as he scored 30 points in a win over the Sixers. In a conversation with Heat CMO Michael McCollough and VP of Creative and Content Jen Alvarez, The Crossover learned how all the festivities came together.

- Perhaps the most surprising participant in the tributes was former president Barack Obama, who recorded a brief video message for Wade. The Heat initially tried to make contact with President Obama through a former staffer who works for the Obama Foundation, with the hopes of having No. 44 narrate a portion of the pregame video that highlighted the three acts of Wade’s career. When the negotiations weren’t moving quickly enough, McCullough asked Alonzo Mourning—who has golfed with Obama—if he could point the marketing department in the right direction.

“Zo, in his way, was like, ‘Shoot, I’ll just text him right now,’” McCullough said. “He literally texts President Obama right then. And he gets a response right away.”

Obama passed on doing the narration, but filmed his own tribute instead.

- Wade’s son Zaire also filmed a surprise for his father, introducing Wade to the arena that night by recreating a shoe commercial Wade had filmed early in his career. To keep Zaire’s involvement a secret from his dad, the Heat had him film the tribute during a road trip, and covered up the project by having Zaire also pose for photos in some retail items.

“[That tribute] pays off the fans who have been with Dwyane since Day 1,” Alvarez said. “You had to be a Heat fan when that commercial came out. If you were with us from Dwyane’s first year, then you know that spot and it’s special for you.”

- LeBron James ended up doing part of the narration for the Heat’s “Three Acts” video, along with Shaquille O’Neal, Udonis Haslem, Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and Gabrielle Union. Miami’s basketball operations reached out to Lakers ops to secure LeBron’s involvement, and James did his part by not only agreeing to appear, but by keeping his participation a secret.

“We didn’t just want to fill the videos with celebrities,” McCullough said. “We wanted to get people who made an impact on or had a relationship with Dwyane.”

Alvarez and McCullough both expressed satisfaction at how the night turned out. They had been planning for Wade’s final home game throughout the season, with different aspects of the night’s plan being discussed in three separate weekly meetings beginning right after Wade announced his retirement. Alvarez, who had seen the tribute videos countless times in the lead up to the actual game, said her eyes were focused on Wade throughout the ceremony. McCullough, as his own way of showing respect, wore all 22 of the Wade jerseys he owns throughout the night.

“It meant a lot to each of us personally to deliver something that was as impactful and emotional as what we delivered.”

“This was so personal for us.” McCullough said. “What you saw was a whole lot of love for one player, a whole lot of respect, and we just wanted to make sure our fans felt that.”

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