OAKLAND -- When it was over, the Warriors summoning barely enough to overcome the relentless pluck of the Miami Heat, two legends of basketball and beyond stood side-by-side, grinning and giggling, each holding the sweaty jersey of each other.
Half of that moment belonged to Dwyane Wade, the Heat superstar in the final season of a career spent putting a mountain of respect on his name and his game.
The other half belonged to Stephen Curry, who is in the midst of a career doing very much the same.
These two don’t have much in common except for proud fatherhood, quiet leadership, a deep reservoir of toughness, creative scoring ability, infinite determination, a commitment to a better society and three NBA championships.
That will have to do until they become teammates in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
“Everywhere he has gone, he’s going to be watched on TV, and it’s a different energy when he gets the ball,” Curry said after a 120-118 victory. “We understand how important he has been to the game throughout his career. No matter who you root for in this league, you respect greatness.”
Most every member of the Warriors, players and coaches, went over to share a word or a hug or a handshake with Wade, who scored 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Golden State Warriors
“He’s invested so much into basketball, especially physically, that it’s just time to walk away and pursue what’s next in his life,” said Kevin Durant, who shared an embrace with Wade before the Curry-Wade jersey swap. “As a hooper from Day 1, I can appreciate that about D-Wade, especially battling him in the (2012) Finals and throughout my whole career.
“It’s good to see guys go out the way they want to.”
With the game at stake, Wade had the nerve to, as a help-side defender, anticipate and swat a Durant fadeaway inside the final minute, turning it into a layup that gave Miami its first lead of the fourth quarter.
That’s not what this night was about, even though that single play -- Wade, at 6-foot-4, defying his seven-inch disadvantage -- symbolizes the player he has been throughout a 16-year career.
The Warriors in the first quarter compiled a brief video tribute, with highlights from Wade’s career, with the Oracle Arena crowd cheering along and, once the camera settled upon him standing near the Heat bench, rising for a standing ovation, which he fully acknowledged.
“He’s been incredible,” Draymond Green said. “D-Wade was an inspiration for me. When you talk undersize, when D-Wade came in the league he was an undersize 2-guard. He beat all odds. Finals MVP. Three-time champion, a million All-Star appearances, a million All-NBA teams . . . I think D-Wade made some All-Defensive teams (three times, actually).
“He’s had an incredible career. And what he’s done for that organization, it’s been amazing.”
Wade is to Miami as Kobe Bryant is to Los Angeles, Larry Bird to Boston, Reggie Miller to Indiana or . . . Curry to the Bay Area.
If not for the presence of Wade, LeBron James never would have taken his talents to South Beach. If not for Wade in Miami, Shaquille O’Neal’s championship glory would have been restricted to L.A.
Indeed, there is no reasonable argument against Wade being among the five best shooting guards in NBA history, which is all the more remarkable insofar as he lacked a reliable 3-point shot. He’s a career 29-percent shooter from deep.
That was the knock on him coming in. Couldn’t shoot. So he responded by scoring in every way possible and a few that should have been impossible. In 2008-09, Wade led the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.2 points per game.
In a league that included Kobe and KD and LeBron and Dirk and Melo, Wade somehow was the top scorer while shooting 31.7 percent from deep.
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Curry, of course, wants no part of such paltry proficiency from beyond the arc. That is the most fearsome element of his game. He is to 2019 what Wade was to 2009.
If Curry knows Wade’s journey, it is because so much of it is his own, from draft-night skeptics to championships to franchise icon.
No doubt Curry will find a place for Wade’s jersey and, moreover, he’ll understand as well as anyone what makes it special.