MIAMI • Dwyane Wade could not have asked for a better storyline on his return to Miami, but he also could not wait to get it over with.
The Chicago native returned to his adopted hometown on Thursday, sinking two key free throws with 13 seconds left as the Bulls edged out the Miami Heat 98-95 in the National Basketball Association.
"It was one of the weirdest games I've ever played in," said the 34-year-old. "What a game. I am glad it is over."
The focus on Thursday night was on his return. During the game's first timeout, the franchise played a video montage of his Heat highlights. And the fans in the AmericanAirlines Arena responded with a standing ovation for the 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion, who raised both arms to salute the crowd.
"There are so many emotions coming back here," the shooting guard said.
Wade said he prepared for Thursday's game by relaxing at his luxury Miami home, where he played cards with some of his team-mates.
"I was trying to get my mind off basketball," he said. "I told my team-mates before this game that this is not about me. Don't worry about me, we needed this win."
He made sure Chicago got the victory when he drew a foul call against Justise Winslow with 13 seconds left. He made both shots from the charity stripe to give the Bulls a 96-92 lead, and that was all they needed.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra smiled when asked about the foul and said that opinions will vary depending on allegiances.
"I don't know if that counts as the storybook return, a foul to go to the free-throw line, but Dwyane was able to knock those down," he said. "If this were last year, I would have thought, 'Hey, he got pushed out of bounds.' This year, he's selling it."
Wade spent 13 seasons with the Heat before joining his hometown team the Bulls on a two-year deal worth an estimated US$47 million (S$66.22 million).
He had suffered a string of injuries in his last few seasons in Miami. And there were reports of tension between him and Heat president Pat Riley leading up to his decision to leave when the Heat did not match the Bulls' contract offer over the summer.
Riley had said he was "floored" by Wade's decision to leave Miami, where he earned a reputation as one of the NBA's elite guards.
On Thursday, Riley said he gets choked up when he thinks of Wade.
"We will always love him. We will never forget him," he said. "I can listen to The Way We Were by Willie Hutch and I will come to tears thinking about him."
BEATING THE HEAT
It was one of the weirdest games I've ever played in. What a game. I am glad it is over.
DWYANE WADE , Bulls shooting guard, on facing his former team, the Miami Heat.
But that has not always been the case for Wade, who took criticism in 2006 from then coach Riley for handling the ball too much and not getting his team-mates involved.
In the NBA Finals against Dallas, Miami started 0-2 in the series and Riley said then that when Wade handled the ball 50 times or more in a game, the Heat usually lost.
Riley took responsibility for Wade not re-signing this season and said he wished he was more involved in the contract negotiations.
Wade maintains that he does not hold anything against Riley.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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