By ANIKA REED
Dwyane Wade is taking his talents to Chicago.
The longtime guard of the Miami Heat franchise is leaving Miami-Wade County to join the Bulls following a surprising free agency.
His choice to leave the Heat for a two-year, $47.5 million deal did not come without an explanation. The 34-year-old shooting guard spoke directly to fans about his "extremely emotional and tough decision" in a note released by the Associated Press Wednesday night.
In the letter, Wade thanks fans and the entire Miami Heat organization for their support and guidance while he played for the "Heat Nation." Wade and the Heat could not come to terms over a salary agreement, with the organization's final offer standing at a two-year, $40 million contract.
Wade was drafted to the Miami Heat out of Marquette University and spent 13 years playing for the Heat, helping the team win three championships during his tenure. However, despite his status as one of the best guards in the league, Wade was never the highest paid athlete on the team.
The entire letter can be seen below:
This has been an extremely emotional and tough decision to come to. After 13 years, I have decided to embark on a new journey with the Chicago Bulls. This was not an easy decision, but I feel I have made the right choice for myself and my family.
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. I want to express my gratitude to the Arison family, Pat Riley, Coach Erik Spoelstra, the coaching staff, and the entire Miami Heat organization.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Miami community and especially #HEATNATION for all of their love and support over the years. It has been truly incredible. I am deeply moved and appreciative of the positive messages from my fans expressing that they want what's best for me and I know they will support my decision. The memories including championship parades and five conference titles are incredible moments we have shared that will always remain close to my heart as I begin the next chapter of my life.
Growing up in Robbins, Ill., I never dreamed that an NBA career could have even been possible and that one day I would wear a Chicago Bulls jersey. Watching the Bulls growing up inspired me at an early age to pursue my dream of becoming a basketball player. My most treasured memories were watching my dad play basketball on the courts of Fermi Elementary School and developing my game at the Blue Island Recreation Center. 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. Many of my family members still live in Chicago and I am excited to return home to a city very close to my heart.
I look forward to returning to my roots and to what lies ahead.
Much Love and Respect,