Pat Riley on Dwyane Wade’s Hall of Fame induction: ‘I’m so proud of him.’

Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, left, and Dwyane Wade #3 during 101-97 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in NBA basketball game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday, December 5, 2007.
Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, left, and Dwyane Wade #3 during 101-97 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in NBA basketball game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday, December 5, 2007. /

In case there’s any question about Pat Riley’s relationship with Dwyane Wade, he made it clear in a conference call with several media outlets, including AllUCanHeat, that his relationship with the Miami Heat great is as strong as ever, even if it was tested during Wade’s 16-year NBA career.

“It’s just an honor to be there, and for him to be a Miami Heat-lifer to be inducted and to have the Hall of Fame put his jersey in the rafters is gonna be an honor,” Riley said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just so proud of him. I love him dearly.”

During an almost 30-minute session, Riley spoke about his relationship with Wade, his view of Wade’s career, the Big Three era, Michael Jordan comparisons, and what would have happened if Wade was off the board when the Heat picked fifth in the 2003 draft.

Here are the most interesting quotes:

• On his relationship with Wade: “I coached Dwyane for 3 1/2 years but I’ve been around him his whole career so, as a coach I was hard on him. I loved him, we argued, he knew that I thought that he was great and that I was going to put him in a position to be the guy to lead us to a championship. When I left (to go back to solely a front office role), our relationship grew to the point where we got the Big Three and we went through those four years. There was a little bit of a separation there when he went to Chicago. We worked that out. And I give Dwyane a lot of credit, I give the contemporary player a lot of credit, when they leave, sometimes there is some resentment, but Dwyane grew out of that and even though he lives in Los Angeles and has a healthy career off the court, we’re fused at the hip forever.”

• On Wade willingly deferring to other great teammates throughout his career: “We have to remember that in 2006 he was the [Finals] MVP and he led us to a world championship. At that time at that moment, he was the greatest player on the planet in those Finals against Dallas. And so he won a championship and he got his contract. In 2011, when the Big Three failed, we had a meeting after the season and I said, You guys need to figure this out. You guys need to figure out the pecking order and how this is going to work. And everybody knew LJ was going to be at the top, Dwyane was going to be somewhere in the middle, CB was going to take up the third spot. They went to the Bahamas, they came to terms with it and they lived by it. All three of them, if they had not sacrificed certain things — even LeBron at times. But he was the best, most dynamic player of that trio at that time and it turned into back-to-back championships and three more trips to the Finals. So, Dwyane was absolutely unselfish there, and I think he was the one that said, ‘Hey man, we can’t do it this way.’ This is going to be the pecking order… Dwyane had a lot to do with actually starting that. You just have to give Dwyane credit. He’s a very unselfish man.”

• On Wade leaving and brining him back in 2019: “When he left it was like the cooling-off period. It wasn’t something that was born out of petulance on his part. He got a great deal out of Chicago for two years and he decided to leave. When he left there were some hard feelings on both sides. They weren’t lethal… I knew we could work it out but we didn’t. We didn’t and that’s our fault.

“I think Dwyane went to Chicago and went to Cleveland, I think he wanted back as much as any of us wanted him back. I was wide-open-armed when he said he wanted to come back to Miami.”

• On Wade being inducted into the Hall of Fame in with Finals rivals Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and Dirk Nowitzki: “I think he’s even more honored that that quality of player and coach that he revered. He doesn’t revere Dirk — he was competitive. He knew that Dirk beat him down for the (2011) championship — there’s such a rivalry there, I think he’s feeling honored to go in with them. It’s a great class.”

• Is Wade the greatest player in Heat history? “You can argue whether or not LeBron or Dwyane were better as a Heat player, but Dwyane is the greatest player ever who put on a uniform with us. LeBron was here for four years and gave us a tremendous lift and helped Dwyane achieve what he wanted to achieve. But Dwyane is the greatest player that ever played for the Heat. And thats not an insult to LeBron. That’s because of his longevity and the short term LeBron was here.”

• Comparing Wade to Michael Jordan: “He was Jordan-like. He was like a cougar. When he put the ball on the floor and he started going to the hoop — and we used to watch this on the tape all the time — we used to say, ‘Look at how low he is to the ground and he still has the strength and the power to go right or left, spin and dunk the ball or get to a floater. That’s Michael.’

“He was his hero. He watched him. Dwyane used to walk on the court like Michael Jordan. If you watched him stand and cross his legs and put his hands on his hip, it was like how Jordan would rest on a free throw. And there’s nothing wrong abut modeling yourself after someone who was great and take on some of their characteristics. But he had a game similar to Michal and he was unstoppable one on one. Michael was unstoppable one on five.”

• When did Riley know Wade was ready to compete for championships, and what led to the trade for Shaquille O’Neal? “In 2003, that was a team that could really get better, especially when we signed Lamar [Odom] as a free agent. We started 0-7 that year, I can remember how crazy everything was around the team, but at the end of the season they got their act together and they were 17-5 and they finished with home court advantage. And when (Wade) put that move on Baron Davis from New Orleans and he took him off the dribble and made the game-winner, it was normal shot for him. The move out front, between his legs and stuff to get to the middle, I remember I said, ‘He’s gonna get his shot.’ Whether he makes it or not is another thing. So he created his shot, he raised, and was like, I’ve done this my whole life. Now his improvement the next year, when we traded for Shaquille, it changed the team.

“Some players come into the league drafted top five or top 10, some make [the leap] the first year — you see it. Some make it the second year — you see it. Some guys don’t . Some guys in the lottery, they might even revert to becoming rotation players or out of the league. But you could see in Dwyane, and LeBron, and Chris, and Carmelo, all those guys that were picked right there in the top five, that these guys were going to be really good. It was just about how good were they were going to be over the course of time. [Wade] was good right out of the box.

“We were very fortunate to get him. And it would have been a dilemma if Toronto would have taken him fourth. We would have taken Chris fifth. As a matter of fact, we needed a big that year and Chris [Bosh] got picked and then we took Dwyane. Everybody said I was going to take [Chris] Kaman but that’s not true. That was just something we put out there in the media. But he was great from the get-go.”

Next. Ranking all of D-Wade's Finals performances. dark