Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul recall how blockbuster Heat trade died over their mutual jersey number

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 16: Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul attend the Gentleman's Supper Club during NBA All-Star Weekend on February 16, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Metelus/Getty Images)
The Heat suddenly have a big Chris Paul what-if. (Photo by Bobby Metelus/Getty Images) (Bobby Metelus via Getty Images)

The Miami Heat could've had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh on the same team, had it not been for a jersey number.

That's what Wade and Paul claimed during an episode of Wade's "The Why" podcast published Wednesday, in which the two friends looked back on a fascinating hypothetical for the James-era Heat.

As the two explained it, the Heat's core and Paul had several conversations about how such a team would work. This was likely in 2011, the offseason after James' and Bosh's first season in Miami and when Paul was up for a trade from the New Orleans Hornets.

The group supposedly reached an agreement, until someone — later identified as Paul's brother, CJ —asked a very important question. The scene, as Wade recalled it:

"We talk about all this — who gonna have the ball, we can all play together, CP, I can play off the ball — we figured all that out. Then somebody said, 'Well, who gonna wear No. 3?'

"Silence. Messed the whole trade up because CP couldn't wear No. 3 in Miami."

At the time, Wade and Paul were both perennial All-Stars, though Wade, who is four years older, was the more established player and had won an NBA championship in 2006. It sounds almost unbelievable that either player — but especially Paul — would give up a chance to form an unprecedentedly stacked team, but then the two veterans revived the argument on the podcast:

Paul: "I don't know what they was going to do. Because you was older, you probably could have just worn 33."

Wade: "No, no. I wasn't older."

Paul: "You was older than me."

Wade: "I was in my prime!"

Paul: "I know, but because you was older than me, you probably just wear 33."

Wade: "No, no, no. See, this is the conversation we're having, and I'm like ,'That's my number.' He's like, 'Well, that's my number.'"

Wade firmly stated that Heat president Pat Riley declined to pull the trigger on the trade due to the jersey number, then noted that he had already sacrificed quite a bit to form the Heat's super team.

"Listen, I sacrificed not getting touches. I sacrificed not getting articles read and not getting the most money, but I am not giving up my number!"

This would be a bigger what-if had the Heat not proceeded to win the next two NBA championships, though who knows what might've happened in 2014, when they lost the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs in five games, then watched James leave for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011 and proceeded to play on some fun teams with Blake Griffin but has yet to win an NBA championship. He still hasn't worn any number other than 3.

We should probably take this story with a grain of salt, as old player recollections aren't known for being firmly reliable. At the very least, though, it's entertaining to imagine James' face watching this deal fall apart over two of his friends refusing to change their number.