(Reuters) - Following the personal path taken by his friend and former Miami Heat teammate LeBron James, 12-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade decided to use free agency to head back home.
Wade, arguably the most popular and accomplished athlete to play in Miami with three NBA championship rings in 13 seasons there, accepted a reported two-year, $47.5 million deal that will enable him to live out a childhood dream.
”I was born and raised in Chicago,“ Wade said on the ABC morning show ”Live! With Kelly“ on Thursday. ”I‘m excited to go back to the place I’ve always envisioned playing basketball.
“Growing up, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was the team for us. In the backyard, I always had a Bulls jersey on and envisioned the Dwyane Wade name being called in the United Center and I get an opportunity to live that dream out.”
Two years ago, free agent James bolted South Beach and returned to his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers after reaching four successive NBA Finals and winning two titles with Miami.
James’ return home climaxed in an emotional NBA championship last month for the title-starved city of Cleveland.
Earlier this week, former league MVP Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent to join the Golden State Warriors in his quest for an elusive championship ring.
But Wade had a different motivation in leaving Miami to join a Bulls team that were 42-40 last season and topped the Heat’s $40 million offer.
The brilliant guard, who has averaged 23.7 points and 5.8 rebounds during his NBA career, reportedly felt under-appreciated by the Heat, after taking a pay cut in 2010 to allow the team come in under the salary cap.
In an open letter to Miami, Wade, 34, wrote: ”I started my NBA career with the Miami Heat in 2003 and it has been an honor to have played with them and help build a winning franchise with three NBA championships.
”I look back with pride and amazement at all we have accomplished together.
“(But) I have never forgotten where I came from and I am thankful to have an opportunity to play for the team that first fueled my love of the game.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue