MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Back in 2006, the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history.
A major reason for that was the play of emerging superstar Dwyane Wade, who had played just three years in the league at that point.
Wade would go on to lead Miami to two more titles and become a champion for the ages.
When Wade heaved a basketball into the air earlier this season in Dallas, he re-lived the moment when he first became an NBA champion.
In 2006 while playing in only his third NBA season, Wade turned into an unstoppable force, gaining the trust of a Hall of Fame coach and aging Hall of Fame players.
“We were more comfortable with him, we were more confident in him,” said Gary Payton, Wade’s teammate in 2006. “We let him make the plays and we were ready for that. And he grew up right then and there.”
WATCH: Hall of Famer Gary Payton discusses former teammate Dwyane Wade
In the 2006 Finals against Dallas, the Heat were down two games to none.
Wade fought off a virus, and put the fight back into his team. With their backs against the wall in Game 3, down 13 points with under six minutes to go, that Wade took over and never looked back.
“Second half I felt a lot better coming out of the 3rd quarter,” Wade said back in ’06. “You know my team needed me to score some buckets. I finally get into a groove for a minute and we took it from there.”
Wade averaged nearly 35 points a game and the Heat stormed back to beat the Mavericks four straight to claim the franchise’s first NBA title.
For his heroics, Wade was named NBA Finals MVP.
The coach who trusted him and the star who first called him Flash broke out in an after-hours celebration.
The party continued a few days later in a parade down Biscayne Boulevard when South Florida’s new sports hero became CBS4’s reporter of the moment.
“Channel 4 this is what it’s all about right here,” Wade said after grabbing a CBS4 microphone during the parade. “Hey fans, we love you! It don’t get any better than this.”
WATCH: Dwyane Wade grabs the CBS4 mic during the Heat’s 2006 NBA Championship parade
24-year-old Dwyane Wade would soon be rewarded with a new contract. Even then, his basketball legacy was on his mind.
“I can’t play this game forever, [you] only can play this game for so long,” Wade said after signing the deal. “So you wanna leave a mark, not only on this game but on the people you run across.”
Wade’s first title team was not built to last.
As its veterans left, Wade hung on as the Heat’s fortunes hit rock bottom before turning around. Then in 2010 there was a seismic shift.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh defected to the Heat, the big three era was born. The Heat became the NBA’s biggest draw.
In their first season together, the big three led the Heat’s march to the NBA finals.
For Wade, it would mean a rematch with Dirk Nowitki, whose complaint about a nagging cough prompted a little comedy from Wade and LeBron.
Nowitzki didn’t think it was funny, and ended up with the last laugh as Dallas won the series.
Without realizing it, Wade had lit Nowitzki’s fire back in 2006.
“In a weird way, I’m appreciative that he beats us in 06,” Nowitzki said. “He made me a better player and person.”
WATCH: Dwyane Wade sits down for an interview after signing big contract extension in 2006
During that offseason, Wade did some soul searching and decided to take a back seat to LeBron.
Wade became the superstar in a supporting role and his personal chemistry with James showed up even more on the court.
“We can actually look at each other and know what other is thinking,” LeBron said at the time.
The Heat would return to the NBA Finals in 2012 and dispatch of Oklahoma City.
LeBron had his first NBA title and Wade, a sense of redemption.
“You know winning the championship in 2006 was amazing,” Wade said after winning his second title. “But I didn’t go through nothing yet. Now six years after that I’ve been through a lot in my personal life. I’ve been through a lot in my professional life and this means so much more.”
Wade and the Heat were now basketball rock stars. The next season, the “Heatles” tore thru the league, at one point winning 27 games in a row.
Wade and his teammates would go on to clinch the franchises third NBA title, sending Wade into rarefied air as a back-to-back champ.
“Two championships in three years together is an unbelievable feat,” Wade said in 2013. “We are thankful we are blessed. Just thank God for giving us the ability to do it.”
For so long, Dan Marino was the undisputed king of South Florida athletes.
But to a younger generation of fans, Dwyane Wade may have changed that conversation.
Three championship rings and a string of clutch moments will do that.
Wade has said that when he puts on his Heat jersey, he feels like superman.
His championship results back that up.
If the Heat ever get another franchise player, he’ll be standing on D-Wade’s very broad shoulders.