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Dwyane Wade traces love of basketball to Chicago roots as he enters Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In a small theater filled with basketball royalty and his friends and family, Dwyane Wade tried to take it all in.

It was too much, both for him and for the audience.

It took a minute for Wade to speak as the crowd roared and chanted. He wiped his eyes as he looked around Symphony Hall before delivering ‘‘my final love letter to basketball’’ as he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Saturday.

In a way, he started writing the speech when he was 5 and tagged along with his father to pickup games throughout Chicago. His dad was his favorite player — until Michael Jordan started leading the Bulls to championships.

‘‘I bet if you gave me enough time, I could find that ‘Come Fly With Me’ VHS tape that I used to watch before every game,’’ Wade said. ‘‘He taught me moves I emulated.’’

Wade thanked all of his coaches, from Jack Fitzgerald at Richards High School to Tom Crean at Marquette and the Heat’s Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, and marveled at getting to play with legendary teammates such as Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James.

There was never any doubt about Wade’s sparkling career and his place as one of the greatest athletes to come from Chicago. He was a 13-time All-Star and a three-time NBA champion and won an Olympic gold medal as Team USA’s leading scorer in 2008, so this night was inevitable.

But as good as he was at Richards, he wouldn’t have believed all this was possible.

‘‘I was clumsy as hell back then,’’ Wade said of his childhood playing days. ‘‘My hands were too big for my body, and my feet were growing just as fast.’’

For all his adoration for Jordan, Wade chose Allen Iverson as his presenter because he saw parallels in their lives. Iverson was visibly moved when Wade commended him for being proof that ‘‘coming from nothing was not a limitation but a motivation.’’

It underscored Wade’s stardom that he was the headliner of a Hall of Fame class that featured talents such as Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and coach Gregg Popovich. He gave the final speech of the night.

Wade, 41, spent most of his 16-year career with the Heat, with short stints with the Bulls and Cavaliers before returning to Miami and retiring in 2019.

The Heat sent a huge delegation to Springfield, and Wade sat in the front row with his wife, Gabrielle Union; his parents, Jolinda and Dwyane; and his children. He asked each of them to stand as he gave touching tributes to their impact.

To his father, he said the hard work he put into basketball was to make him proud.

‘‘There was no limitation on how you would show up for me,’’ Wade said before calling him to the stage at the end to stand beside him as he became a Hall of Famer. ‘‘I hated being called ‘Little Dwyane,’ but I admired you as a kid and I admire you now.’’

The speech ended with a standing ovation as Wade told his father he loved him and they hugged at the podium.

Gasol, who chose former Bulls player Toni Kukoc to present him, was an All-Star in both his seasons with the Bulls — ‘‘a team we grew up idolizing,’’ he said — and was thankful for the chance to ‘‘get to know an amazing city.’’

Six-time WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon, a trailblazing coach who worked on Popovich’s staff with the Spurs and now coaches the Las Vegas Aces, also was enshrined.

Purdue coach Gene Keady, late coach Jim Valvano, junior-college coach Gene Bess and Division III coach David Hixon were inducted, too, along with women’s college basketball champion coach Gary Blair and the 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.



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