SALT LAKE CITY — Nestled near the mountains of Utah, a rising NBA star showed his appreciation for his elder statesman at Valter's Osteria Italian restaurant.
On the eve of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade’s final game at Vivint Arena, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell hosted a farewell dinner for him Tuesday night at the upscale spot where he gifted the 36-year-old with a rocking chair.
“The rocking chair was kind of our little way of saying, ‘Welcome into the new life outside the NBA,'” Mitchell said.
Wade said he was immediately reminded of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famous farewell tour in 1988-89 once he saw the rocking chair, but also enjoyed the meal and was more so impressed with the overall décor and craftsmanship of the site.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr considers Valters to be his favorite restaurant in the league.
“So I seen like every person in the NBA had a picture on the wall then me and (Udonis Haslem) were like, ‘Why we ain’t never heard about it?’” Wade described during Wednesday's shootaround. “But it was good. I know they made the pasta from scratch. It was incredible.
“So I’m thinking about hopefully they stay open late tonight.”
The dinner was orchestrated in conjunction with Stance socks, for whom they both serve as brand ambassadors. Friends and business partners of Mitchell and Wade will also be wearing custom Stance T-shirts in the stands with both guys' logos on front and One Last Dance art on the back.
Jazz swingman Royce O’Neale plus Heat players Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson and Udonis Haslem also joined Wade and Mitchell as well as Stance co-founder John Wilson and Stance representatives Clarke Miyasaki and Tzvi Twersky.
“Both men, more than players, are standup individuals and excellent role models,” Twersky said. “Oh, and funny as hell.”
“It was good, it was fun just to have a little bit of relaxation and fun with him,” Haslem added. “We enjoyed it. Stance showed love, Stance is family."
Wade enters Utah after an emotional game at Staples Center Sunday where he matched up against his close friend LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for the final time. Miami fell 108-105 to the Lakers, but Wade and James swapped jerseys afterward just as he and Mitchell did on Dec. 2 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami after nailing two clutch free throws to help beat the Jazz at home, 102-100.
The signed Wade jersey he got in Miami will go up on his wall, along with one of Chris Paul’s and Montrezl Harrell’s, his former Louisville teammate now with the Clippers.
“Growing up obviously being a LeBron fan, I saw a lot of Dwyane Wade, but I didn’t understand what I was watching until I got to the NBA,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s what really drew me to him so quickly, because of the way I kind of modeled myself after him and the way he plays. Watching film, asking him questions on the phone. I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten tired of me, to be honest, but just continuing to ask questions.”
Wade’s 16th and final NBA season has been dubbed as the “One Last Dance” farewell tour as he is set to retire in the offseason. The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star has received an outpour of support throughout the league for his contributions to basketball and Mitchell’s gesture was the latest.
“It’s been incredible from the fans standpoint, the support has been great more than I could ask for especially in cities that you only go to once a year,” Wade said of the tour. “It’s been great so for me I know I have a job to do and also too I understand that they want to see me do something so I try to give them something so I try to give them something.
“Some games I’ve probably been able to give them more than they thought and some games I probably didn’t give them enough,” he said laughing. “But I just try to come out here and do my job as well but also enjoy it and be appreciative and be thankful of the support that I’m getting.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder also admitted that he and his staff have borrowed pieces of Wade’s game to help with Mitchell’s development. Their similar build and playing style has often drawn comparisons throughout the league, which Wade has no problem with.
The two once chatted on the phone for two hours and Wade hosted Mitchell at his inaugural D. Wade Invitational at the Stance Headquarters in San Clemente, California in August. Wade considers Mitchell to be one of the elite young players in the NBA.
“Not a lot of guys are like that where they take you in they listen and they answer your questions...whether it’s life, basketball, whatever it might be,” Mitchell said of Wade. “For him to do that, it’s really special. Playing against him one last time, I’m glad to get the opportunity to play him both in Miami and here in Utah. He’s done a lot for this game, a lot for everything, and I’m really excited.”3 comments on this story
Throughout his career, Wade has averaged 24.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 26 games against the Jazz, but couldn’t think of one particular moment that has stood out in Utah. The fan experience is what he’ll remember most about playing here and he won’t rule out returning in the future.
“You can never say never, I don’t know,” Wade said of a potential return to the state after retirement. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing in life that’ll bring me or take me anywhere so I have no problems with Salt Lake at all.”