MIAMI -- He was introduced last. As usual. As was only right.

And as Mike Baiamonte's voice reverberated throughout AmericanAirlines Arena -- "D-u-h-w-a-y-y-y-y-n-e W-a-y-y-y-y-d-e!" -- as it customarily did for the final player on the Heat side, the cheers came along for the ride.

Just as South Florida had tagged along for the 13 seasons that Dwyane Wade had driven the Heat, before he left for the Chicago Bulls last offseason.

"The fans were great," Wade said after his first and only regular-season return.

Wade wasn't great Thursday. He actually called it the "worst basketball game I've ever played in my life," and that was somewhat of a surprise, considering how he so often stole the stage here, how he made magic in what he likes to label "the moment," and how he was coming off a 25-point outing against Atlanta. He missed his first off-balance stepback jumper and it didn't get much better from there.

"I couldn't wait until it was over," Wade said. "It was just weird."

He scored 13, and missed 12 of 17 shots in the 98-95 Chicago victory, clanking all four of his attempts from 3-point range, which actually was more representative of his Miami days than early in his time in Chicago. He committed three turnovers, including a couple of careless passes. He did have one dazzling reverse layup, but his principle contribution came in the form of selling a foul on Justise Winslow, and then sinking two free throws with 13.7 seconds left. It was the sort of foul call Erik Spoelstra said he would have appreciated ... last season.

"The guy, No. 20, he's a really strong guy," Wade's teammate, Rajon Rondo, said of Winslow. "And he pushed (Wade) into the crowd, and the refs did a great job of calling the call. ... What you guys think? No? I mean, he's D-Wade. He's had the career. It's not (that) you have to give him the call. But you have to give him the call."

"I got a vet call," Wade quipped.

It was a hometown call, too.

So maybe Mark Davis, who called it, was confused.

It was easy to be.

Dwyane Wade made his first trip back to Wade County, Florida. USATSI

Because this sure still felt like home, even if some of the details were different: different entrance, different locker room ("tiny," Wade noted), different uniform, different perspective.

"The one thing that's going to be cool for me is normally when we line up as a team, for the national anthem, the banners are behind me," Wade said an hour prior to tipoff. "This time, I get to look up at what we accomplished from the opposite side. That's going to be pretty cool to look up there and see everything we accomplished."

Everything they accomplished?

There's no way a banner could cover that.

Or even all three banners, for the three championships, one of which -- 2006 -- was his forever masterpiece. But there was so much more. His official arrival in the 2004 postseason, from the game-winning runner in the lane to the second-round slam over Jermaine O'Neal. The 2008-09 season in which he could have, probably should have, been the NBA MVP, losing out to LeBron James. The 2013 NBA Finals, after which he sprawled out on the floor, covered in and covering confetti, since he had never been so spent.

"A lot of great memories," he said.

What he accomplished more than anything was making these people love him, which isn't that easy to achieve, since South Florida fans can be infamously fickle and distracted when it comes to their sporting interest. But Wade won them over, not just with the way he won, but with the way he was, somehow remaining real even as he evolved into an icon. He won them over in a way that really only Dan Marino has, among area standouts, and Marino's team achievements pale.

So, yes, this felt like home from the start, when Wade entered the building from the south side to the applause of support staff. If felt like home when he sprinted out to the court for the first time, later than he usually does, his regular routine in tatters because of a pregame press conference; fans had been crowding above the tunnel for more than 15 minutes hoping to get a glimpse. It felt like home after the first timeout, when the highlight video played, 13 years of memories -- in the community and on the court -- squeezed into two minutes, and tears appeared to squeeze out of his eyes, even if he insisted later, as he typically does, that it was simply sweat.

And it felt like home at the finish, after his TNT interview, as he embraced Madeleine Arison -- managing partner Micky's wife -- and general manager Andy Elisburg, among others.

"Probably the most emotional I got was at the end of the game when I went around and hugged certain people just to see the people that I called family," Wade said. "That was probably the most emotional moments for me."

That's what was clearest here Thursday: The emotional connection that endures with the organization and, especially, its fans, will endure regardless of his relationship with Pat Riley, after a split that was acrimonious last summer. Yes, there was much made of that, with Wade saying again Thursday that there was nothing left to "squash" while Riley was in the mood for admissions; the Heat president told TNT's David Aldridge that he should have maxed out Wade in 2014 after James left, and he told another small group of reporters that he finally sent his goodbye e-mail to Wade, with Wade acknowledging that he had seen the correspondence enter his in-box but would likely read it on the flight out.

But whatever that relationship is, and whatever it becomes, the relationship that Wade fostered with South Florida will always be his legacy.

Introduced last.

Still first.