I’m not going to lie: after all the ink that was spilled last year over the bile and vitriol behind the divorce between Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley that led to the 12-time All-Star leaving the Miami Heat to sign with the Chicago Bulls, I was flat-out stunned to see that Riley had brought Wade back to Miami on Thursday (for the cost of just a second-round pick!) as part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ midseason reconstruction project/exorcism. Maybe I shouldn’t have been — both sides have spoken of the possibility in the past year — but I was. May I never again doubt the restorative powers of a good, strong hug.
Or, even better, may I never again doubt the power of a marketing opportunity whose time has come.
Almost immediately after news of Thursday’s trade began to spread, it became very clear that, some 20 months after Wade played his last game in South Beach, the appetite among Heat fans to see the franchise legend back in his old familiar jersey was incredibly strong … and that the desire to see him in Miami’s new colors was even stronger.
Two hours after the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, the Heat made the very shrewd decision to put their new “VICE” jerseys — easily the coolest alternate uniform to come out of the “City Edition” campaign launched by Nike in its first year as the NBA’s official apparel sponsor — back on the market for fans, promoting the chance to scoop up a neon-accented version of Wade’s No. 3 before he can wear it himself for the first time:
— The Miami HEAT Store (@MiamiHEATstore) February 9, 2018
As it turns out, many, many people were very eager for that chance!
Heat put @DwyaneWade jerseys on sale at 5pm yesterday. Received orders from more than 100 countries in 15 hours. Team merchandise sales are up 8000% from the previous two days. pic.twitter.com/nD3Gt0v2Ai
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 9, 2018
If you didn’t get to the party Thursday night, you appear to be out of luck at the moment: the link to the page with Wade’s VICE jersey is now 404’ing. I wouldn’t expect that to last too long; after all, it sure as heck seems like there’s a market. Demand will likely only increase once Wade — who appears to be beside himself over this homecoming — makes his return to AmericanAirlines Arena for Friday night’s matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks — a game, by the way, in which the Heat will be wearing those stylish alternates.
That’s not to say that bringing Wade back is just about fan service or goosing team store sales. Though many things about the Cavs weren’t working through the season’s first 50-plus games, Wade wasn’t one of them, averaging 17.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 combined blocks-and-steals per 36 minutes of floor time, as he adjusted comfortably into a lower-usage, lower-wattage supporting role leading Cleveland’s second unit. His complementary playmaking, opportunistic defense and secondary scoring could prove a boon to a Heat team that’s lost Dion Waiters for the season, that’s won just three of its last 10 games, and that’s had to rely almost entirely on All-Star Goran Dragic and rising star Josh Richardson to create quality shots.
Wade’s no longer the caliber of player that he was even in the latter days of his Heat tenure, but there’s still a great chance that he can play a meaningful on-court role for Erik Spoelstra’s club. And if he manages to generate thousand-percent-spikes in merchandise sales along with more sustainably dangerous offense, well, so much the better.
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