miami-wade-county-sign_web.jpgThis week marked the beginning of the most anticipated free-agency period in NBA history as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and other sought-after players get to decide for themselves which uniforms they will wear next season.

“With players able to do whatever they want, fans get a higher chance to have a superstar in their team,” said Dale McLean, a Heat game announcer known as the “mayor of Uptown.”

This past Wednesday, June 30, McLean led a crowd of Miami Heat fans who came together at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami for the launch of the “We Want Wade” campaign where, as an effort to keep its favorite player, Miami-Dade County renamed itself from July 1-8 to Miami-Wade County.

“My taxes are going right to that county,” joked McLean.

Holding a sign that said “Please Don’t Go,” Burnie, the Heat mascot, danced on stage along with Miami-Dade County commissioners Joe A. Martinez, Rebeca Sosa and Dorrin D. Rolle.

Fans were offered the opportunity to sign a giant gratitude card to Wade as Heat official Alonzo Mourning – the first player in Miami Heat history to have his number retired – urged the crowd to also celebrate the player as an individual.

“He’s a great role model,” said Margie Ponder from Miami Gardens. “You just don’t hear negativity associated with him like with other players.”

Fan souvenir kits, video messages and a billboard near Wade's Miami home displaying the signature portion of a contract awaiting his autograph are also part of the Heat-launched campaign.

Daniel Barrera, director for the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana’s summer camp, said the free agency has created a unique NBA environment this year.

“I think there’s too much anticipation, too much drama; this focus on four dudes distracts from everything else that is going on,” Barrera said.

While Wade, who led the Heat to its one and only championship in 2006, has said he would like to remain with the Heat, which can pay him nearly $30 million more than any other team, it appears that  his decision is likely to hinge on whether any of his fellow free agents join him.

“Money is not the issue with those players, they want to make legacy, want to win all in one team,” said Jeff Townsley, a bus operator from Miami Gardens.

“And it would be nice if we could get all of them. We would become the Lakers of the East.”

Accioly.Juliana@Yahoo.com

Photo by Khary Bruyning. Miami-Wade County signage