Dwyane Wade’s season-long farewell tour spent last night in Dallas, the NBA city where he’s probably most hated, first for beating the Mavericks in the 2006 Finals by drawing an ungodly amount of fouls, and then for repeatedly antagonizing local legend Dirk Nowitzki. This is also almost certainly Nowitzki’s last season in the league, and the two decided that last night, the final night they’ll ever share an NBA court, was time for making amends.
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle helped to set the stage in the first quarter. When Wade walked over to the scorer’s table the check in, Carlisle immediately motioned for Nowitzki to get into the game, giving the two players an opportunity to share a moment together before checking in:
Both guys played well—Wade scored 22 points in 22 minutes; Dirk answered with 12 points in 17 minutes—and they even exchanged signature jumpers on back-to-back possessions:
The two reconvened after the buzzer for a ceremonial jersey exchange, which both players seemed to be truly affected by. Wade, who once claimed that the Mavs would have won the 2006 Finals if Nowitzki had been a better leader and then publicly mocked Nowitzki for having the flu 2011 finals, had this to say (via ESPN):
“One of my best jersey swaps of the year,” Wade said. “To be able to have that, he’s a Hall of Famer, somebody that obviously I’ve grown to have so much respect for. So, I’m just thankful that he didn’t turn me down and say no, so I appreciate it.”
Nowitzki was a little more expansive in his postgame comments, reflecting honestly on the very real animosity he once had for Wade and how there’s no point in hanging onto such hard feelings into old age:
The NBA has had and will continue to have more serious grudges than any other sport in America, and it’s a nice change of pace to see two legends put one to bed before their playing days are officially over. It beats letting all those bad vibes fester long enough to make a petty fool of oneself during a Hall of Fame induction speech, or to need them exorcised years later in a weepy television interview.