At the Summer Groove All-Star basketball game on Sunday, July 18 at AmericanAirlines Arena, co-host Dwyane Wade held up a sign that read “Welcome to Wade-County,” when he was introduced, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
It was the final, triumphant event of the 14th annual Summer Groove, hosted by Wade and former Heat center Alonzo Mourning. As usual, the game served up much fun and excitement, but this time to a sold-out audience.
Although the Summer Groove is well-supported every year, Mourning said there was an increase in support this year, in part due to the buzz over the Miami Heat’s new team roster.
“The amount of support we’ve gotten has been amazing. It really has,” he said.
“The town is abuzz over basketball – but the people understand the passion D. Wade and I share when it comes to improving the community,” he said.
But Wade is finding that ever since mega star LeBron James joined him and Chris Bosh in Miami, anything the Heat guard says or does is closely scrutinized. That was certainly the case when Wade made an off-the-cuff reference to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center before the All-Star game on Sunday.
Wade was speaking to reporters about the new Miami Heat team, and the pressure that is on the team to win all the time. He was attempting to explain to reporters that they (reporters) are going to overreact if the new team loses two games in a row.
“It’s going to seem like the world has crashed down. You all are going to make it seem like the World Trade has just went down again,” the Heat star said, later drawing widespread criticism for being insensitive to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Wade quickly issued an apology the following day and explained that what he attempted to say was that losing a couple of basketball games should not be compared to a real catastrophe.
It wasn’t just Wade’s words that garnered attention during the week of festivities. After a contentious divorce from his ex-wife, the athlete’s love life was prominently on display as he and his girlfriend, actress Gabrielle Union, made their first public appearance as a couple during the Summer Groove events. Union and Wade walked the red carpet hand in hand for the comedy show and at the benefit gala on Saturday night in front of Hard Rock Live.
Then on Sunday, during a break in the All-Star game, Wade made his way over to Union’s courtside seat, affectionately snuggling next to her as hordes of photographers snapped away.
In addition to providing fodder for the tabloids, the week of activities brought out the stars. From the golf tournament to the comedy show, the youth summit, the benefit gala and the All-Star game, celebrities abounded.
Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo was on the All-Star charity basketball team, but sat on the bench. It is not known why he didn’t play, but he drew the loudest applause when the players were introduced.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a celebrity coach. Actor/Rapper Common sat courtside with Mourning, who did not play in the game this year.
Common also joined CNN political analyst Roland Martin at the youth summit, which took place a day earlier at the Signature Grand in Davie.
“It’s a great compilation of events,” Martin said as he and his wife walked the Red Carpet at the gala Saturday night.
“There are a lot of events all across the country that focus on just sports. But what Alonzo and Dwyane do when it comes to youth, is vitally important,” said Martin, who joked that the golf actually got him to participate.
On the Red Carpet, Gabrielle Union said she, too believes that the charities benefited from the hype surrounding the Miami Heat.
“It has surely made a difference,” she said. “We’ll take the support any way we can get it! Even if it means signing LeBron,” she said laughing!
Niema Hulin, 30, of North Miami, won tickets to the All-Star game from a contest at Publix.
“This is my first Miami Heat game, period. I’m excited!” she said during the game. “I think we’ll get the championship this year!”
Proceeds from the Summer Groove will benefit Alonzo Mourning Charities and Wades World Foundation, Mourning and Wade’s respective charities.
Photo by MagicalPhotos.com/Mitchell Zachs. Alonzo Mourning, left, and Dwyane Wade.