MIAMI – Dwyane Wade’s wife was slapping his backside in celebration.
His oldest son, the heir to the Wade basketball throne, was on the Miami bench for the final minutes.
Former President Barack Obama sent a video. John Legend and Chrissy Teigen were courtside. The “M-V-P” chants rained down while Wade played, one more time, the last Miami steps in this season-long One Last Dance.
Wade’s final game in Miami was everything he wanted, and then some. He scored 30 points in the tribute-filled game, and the Heat sent him off a winner by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-99 on Tuesday night. It was festive, all the way to the end, even though the Heat learned during the third quarter that they were eliminated from playoff contention.
“Wade County,” Wade shouted to the crowd after the game after he jumped up onto the courtside table where Heat managing general partner Micky Arison sits, one last time, one last celebration. “I love you.”
They loved him back. They have for 16 years. They will for 16 more, and 16 more after that, and 16 more after that, too.
“I’m still just amazed, even after all these years,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ve seen him go into his bag of tricks so many times and just compartmentalize. But I’m truly amazed that he was able to perform like that tonight.”
Bam Adebayo scored 19, Justise Winslow scored 16 and Hassan Whiteside added 15 for the Heat. The Heat were aware that Memphis had a big lead against Detroit, a must-win for the Grizzlies to keep Miami alive in the playoff race, but the Pistons rallied.
“It still was a beautiful night,” Spoelstra said.
Wade’s career will end Wednesday in Brooklyn, when Miami plays its regular-season finale. He checked out for the last time with 1:02 left, embracing teammates and his son Zaire — who was on the Heat bench.
Greg Monroe scored 18 points and Ben Simmons scored 16 for Philadelphia, which entered Tuesday already locked into the No. 3 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs and rested Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick. Simmons played only 21 minutes, Tobias Harris shot 3 for 16 in 20 minutes and Jimmy Butler scored only four points in 16 minutes.
Butler did get one prize — he was the recipient of Wade’s final postgame jersey exchange with an opponent.
“Special, to see my brother get as much love as he deserves,” Butler said. “He’s one of the greatest to play this game and I’m so happy he gets to go out on his terms.”
Jonathon Simmons scored 14 for the 76ers, who knew they were witnessing Wade history.
“To see him be celebrated that way was the only positive of the night,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
Wade scored the first basket of the game on a dunk, Philadelphia scored the next eight — and it was all Miami the rest of the way. Winslow had three 3-pointers and Wade scored six points in a 22-2 Heat run that put Miami in control early, and the outcome was never in question again.
The final minutes were all Wade. He swished a 3-pointer. He banked in a pair of them. He got slapped on his backside by a fan — in this case, it was permitted, since the fan was his wife Gabrielle Union-Wade. He scored 14 of his points in that final quarter.
It was his night.
The game was the sideshow.
The 20,153 fans came to see him.
Wade did not disappoint, one last time.
“I’m the most thankful person in this city,” Wade said.
Nowitzki announces retirement
In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 30 points and then announced his retirement in the 40-year-old’s final home game, a 120-109 victory for the Dallas Mavericks over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Nowitzki told the crowd, “As you might expect, this is my last home game.” That was after speeches from Larry Bird and others he idolized growing up in Germany.
The 14-time All-Star took the first eight Dallas shots and scored his team’s first 10 points in the first three minutes. He passed his previous season high of 21 on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter.
Dallas’ season finale, and the career-ender for Nowitzki, is Wednesday night in San Antonio. Coach Rick Carlisle said the plan is to play Nowitzki, who spent a record 21 seasons with the same franchise. Kobe Bryant, who retired three years ago, played 20 seasons with the Lakers.
A sellout crowd followed owner Mark Cuban’s order of filling the arena early, and cheered from the first possible moment for the player who guided the Mavericks to their only championship eight years ago.
Fans stood during warmups, recording him in the layup line on their phones. The 7-footer obliged with a dunk. Then he had another dunk in the game — his second of the season — in the second half.
The wide smile as he ran down the floor was quite a contrast to the break between the first and second quarters. Nowitzki fought back tears near midcourt with the game about to restart after a tribute video detailing one of his holiday visits to a children’s hospital.
Doncic, the rookie sensation and the heir apparent to Nowitzki, had his eighth triple-double with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The 20-year-old is one triple-double shy of Jason Kidd’s franchise record from 1995-96.
In Other Games
Celtics 116, Wizards 110
Hornets 124, Cavaliers 97
Pistons 100, Grizzlies 93
Warriors 112, Pelicans 103
Knicks 96, Bulls 86
Raptors 120, Timberwolves 100
Jazz 118, Nuggets 108
Thunder 112, Rockets 111
Blazers 104, Lakers 101