Salt Lake City, Utah, and Miami, Florida. Listing the differences between these cities could take all day. But thanks to the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat, both cities feature a championship-contending basketball team.
Close to three weeks since the new NBA season tipped off, the 7-1 Jazz and 6-2 Heat are among the best teams in their respective conferences. While the season is young, both teams have looked like legitimate threats to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, should they meet in the NBA Finals, you will have ecstatic fan bases in Utah and Florida, but a heavily-conflicted legend in Dwyane Wade.
The Miami Heat and Utah Jazz are two of the NBA’s best teams
Even before the season started, both clubs had a recent modicum of success. The Heat battled the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2020 and followed it the next year with another trip to the postseason. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz are still looking for a Finals appearance since the Karl Malone-John Stockton era, but finished 2020-21 with the top seed in the West.
Now, both of these teams look as strong as ever. Miami is the fifth-best team in the league in offensive rating and second in defensive rating. As for Utah, the top-seeded Jazz are third in both. Only the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls are in the top 10 in both categories, let alone the top five.
In addition, each club is led by a potential MVP candidate. For Miami, Jimmy Butler is averaging 24.4 points per game on 50.4% shooting, while’s boasting the league’s third-highest Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, at 28.5. Close behind is towering Jazz center Rudy Gobert, whose 15.4 points and league-leading 17.2 rebounds give him a fifth-ranked 26.4 PER.
Dwyane Wade is tied to both franchises
There aren’t many people in the world who feel a strong allegiance to two NBA teams. But Wade is now one of them, thanks to his long playing career and his recent post-basketball business decisions.
Most people remember D-Wade as a superstar in South Beach. The 16-year veteran made 13 All-Star teams, eight All-NBA teams, and three All-Defensive teams. As the face of the franchise, he led the Heat to its first title in 2006, earning Finals MVP. But he also teamed up with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to win two more titles in 2012 and 2013. After a brief stint with the Bulls and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade returned to Miami before retiring in 2019.
However, the 39-year-old is now associated with another team. In April 2021, Wade purchased a minority ownership stake in the Jazz. Right off the bat, the future Hall of Famer made it clear he wants to be involved.
“This goes way beyond the dream I had to just play basketball in the NBA,” Wade told ESPN. “I’ve seen Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] do it in Sacramento, Grant Hill do it in Atlanta, [and Michael] Jordan do it in Charlotte. If this partnership is going to be anything like my relationship is with [majority owner Ryan Smith], there are going to be a lot of things that I’ll want to be involved in.”
Already, Wade has taken an interest in Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who has often been compared to Flash.
“I call him 2.0,” Wade said. “If there’s a player similar to me, it’s Donovan Mitchell.”
Who would Wade choose between the Heat and Jazz?
Assuming both of these teams keep it up, they could each finish with the one seed in their respective conferences. If things continue to break their way, a trip to the Finals could be in the cards soon after.
So if that happens, what would Wade do? Would he root for the Heat, the team he won three championships with and fought for nearly every day of his pro career? Or would he pull for the Jazz, the team he not only has a financial stake in but the organization that selected his son Zaire in the G-League Draft?
“The respect I have for that [Heat] organization will not go anywhere, the love that I have for the [Heat] fans — that goes nowhere,” Wade added after buying his stake in the Jazz. “But this is about the next phase of my life as an investor, a businessman, an entrepreneur. For me, this is an opportunity to grow.”
While it won’t come with a trophy on the line, Wade will have an opportunity to see where his heart lies. The Heat host the Jazz Saturday night in a nationally-televised game on NBA TV. For now, expect D-Wade to admit he’s just rooting for a fun, competitive game.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.