And it was a homecoming Wade did not see coming -- at least not this way.
Thomas, until his death last month, was the agent for both Wade and Heat captain Udonis Haslem. Thomas had deep relationships with the Heat, through his representation of those two players as well as Chris Bosh, Tim Hardaway, Shaun Livingston and others. The Heat even had a moment of silence before a home game on the day Thomas died.
At Thomas' funeral in Chicago, fences were mended. Wade and Heat president Pat Riley, whose relationship would best be described as strained since Wade left for Chicago in the summer of 2016, hugged. Simple as it sounds, that's all Wade needed to be convinced that his plan to return to Miami one day would become reality.
"Hank's still doing his job from above," Haslem said.
Less than two weeks later, Wade's back in Miami.
"The hug that we embraced was real and it was all we needed," Wade said of the brief encounter with Riley at the funeral. "That's it. That's all we both needed. I walked away and I felt better about everything, without even getting into anything."
Riley, for his part, said Thursday that the past is in the past.
"For all of you who know me, warriors don't live in the past. Life is now. And the future is waiting," he said on a conference call. "Based on what happened with Dwyane and us the last couple of years, there's no bitterness and no regrets. We've always talked about that. Micky [Arison] is very pro Dwyane. Coach [Erik Spoelstra] is very pro Dwyane. I am. It was a sad day when Dwyane left and it's a beautiful day that he's back."
Wade fully believed for many months that he would eventually return to the Heat, though he figured it would happen in a free-agent deal this summer and not on a Thursday afternoon while he was headed into Cleveland's practice facility for a workout with LeBron James.
But then came the text from agent Leon Rose: "Call me 911," it read.
"So if you get a text like that and the trade deadline is coming up and you know the team that you're on is going to be very active, you know something is going down with you," Wade said. "And my mind went right to, 'No, it's not Miami. There's no way.' My mind went right to that because I felt like that's the only other place I can be."
He was right.
James wished Wade well, both on social media and in person before they went their opposite ways Thursday.
Wade, who left Miami in 2016 for his hometown of Chicago, is now back in his NBA hometown. He's with the Heat again, getting traded as part of Cleveland's massive roster shake-up Thursday in exchange for a second-round pick in 2024.
"I always felt that one day it would happen," Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. "For me, it's always been a hope. You just don't know how or when you're going to get there."
Wade kept his home in Miami, and his two sons and a nephew he is raising have been back in school there this year. Wade was back in Miami a few days ago, albeit briefly, to celebrate his oldest son Zaire's 16th birthday.
"That was the best moment I've had in a long time," Wade said.
The kids are thrilled. His wife, Gabrielle Union, is thrilled. His teammates are thrilled.
Wade and Union posted a video on social media upon arriving at his home in Miami-Dade County, thanking the Cavaliers and the fans as well as the Heat organization. In another, he shows highlights of his time in Miami and delivers the message "my city, my home, my house" -- an area he affectionately calls "Wade County."
🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/2Gkgj01s15— DWade (@DwyaneWade) February 9, 2018
Wade said that after a hastily arranged flight from Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, he fully intends to make his second Heat debut when they play host Friday night to the Milwaukee Bucks. It's Miami's only home game between now and Feb. 24, and Wade doesn't want to make fans wait.
"I've missed them and I know they've missed me," Wade said.
Wade is Miami's all-time leader in points, games, assists and steals, shots made and shots taken. He returns to Miami with the Heat on a five-game slide, one he helped contribute to when the Cavaliers beat his then-former, now-current club last week. His mission, he said, is simply to help the franchise -- the one that drafted him in 2003 and had him for 13 seasons the first time around, winning three titles -- reach its potential.
He raved about the player Heat guard Josh Richardson -- whom Spoelstra has compared to a young Wade on more than one occasion -- has become. Wade is back to both help Miami win now and win in the future by mentoring young players.
"This is definitely a playoff team," Wade said. "This is a team that a lot of teams around the NBA respect because of the way that they play the game."
Riley said that in the beginning of this reunion, Wade probably will come off the bench.
"Don't matter," Wade said. "I can't wait to embrace whatever role I have."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.