Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki bade emotional farewells to the NBA on Tuesday as the regular season neared its finale with Magic Johnson’s resignation plunging the Los Angeles Lakers into fresh turmoil.
Miami Heat star Wade and beloved Dallas Mavericks forward Nowitzki both played their final games at home after a combined total of nearly 40 years in the sport.
While Wade’s last home game for the Heat had been planned, Nowitzki only finally confirmed his exit on Tuesday after 21 seasons with Dallas.
“As you guys might expect, this is my last home game,” Nowitzki told the crowd at the American Airlines Center.
“I’ve put you guys on a hell of a ride with a lot of ups and downs and you guys always stuck with me and supported me, and I appreciate it,” the 40-year-old added.
The German power forward is the most successful European ever to grace the NBA, ranking sixth on the all-time scorers list with more than 31,000 points.
After watching Nowitzki become the oldest player to score 30 points in the Mavs’ 120-109 defeat of Phoenix, Dallas owner Mark Cuban told the veteran forward: “I promise we’ll put up the biggest, most badass statue ever.”
– ‘I love y’all’ –
There was a similarly heartfelt send-off in Miami, where the Heat were eliminated from playoff contention despite beating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-99.
“I love y’all, man,” Wade told the crowd after scoring 30 points in the loss. “I thank you guys for dancing with me this year. I thank y’all for your patience this year. I thank y’all for the love,” the 37-year-old three-time NBA champion said.
Miami were eliminated after Detroit defeated Memphis 100-93.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Golden State, who have already locked up top seeding in the Western Conference, suffered a scare when Stephen Curry was withdrawn from his team’s 112-103 win over the New Orleans Pelicans with a sprained ankle.
At the other end of the Western Conference standings, however, the Los Angeles Lakers look poised for a chaotic off-season after president of basketball operations Johnson abruptly quit his front office role.
The Lakers have stumbled from one disappointment to the next this season despite signing LeBron James last year in a blockbuster move.
They failed to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Johnson, who played a pivotal role in persuading James his future lay in Los Angeles, said he was quitting after growing weary of his responsibilities.
He said he had not enjoyed the process of hiring and firing personnel.
“I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and the ambassador to everybody,” he said. “I had more fun on the other side than on this side.”
Johnson also hinted that he was uncomfortable about the prospect he would be required to sack coach Luke Walton after the conclusion of the regular season.
“Tomorrow I would have to affect someone’s livelihood and their life,” Johnson said.
“And I thought about that. And that’s not fun for me. That’s not who I am.”
The Lakers meanwhile paid tribute to Johnson in a brief statement.
“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson,” the team said. “We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise, as a player, an ambassador and an executive.”