The Miami Heat guard called USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski on Thursday to break the news, which was not totally unexpected after Wade played through pain in the postseason. He appeared in all 23 Heat playoff games despite the knee problems, averaging 22.6 points during Miami's five-game win over Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals.
"I've decided to listen to my doctors and get the procedure I need on my knee," Wade told The Associated Press on Thursday. "USA Basketball said I had to do what was best for me. They want me to be obviously as healthy as possible so I can continue to play this game at a high level. They were very supportive and told me if I ever want to come around the team, I'm welcome and that I'm part of the family."
Wade and his doctors are in the process of scheduling the surgery. Wade has been told it will be basically a "cleanup" procedure and should have him on crutches for only about a day afterward.
If all goes according to plan, Wade will be ready for the start of training camp with the Heat this fall.
"That's the way we laid it out," Wade said. "Hopefully nothing changes. … I don't think it's going to limit me too much."
Wade's departure leaves 17 players in the mix for 12 spots on the U.S. Olympic team. That group convenes in Las Vegas next week to start training camp, then has five exhibitions with international teams before opening Olympic play against France on July 29.
Wade was the leading scorer for the U.S. team on its way to gold at the Beijing Games four years ago, and he hoped to be part of defending that title in London. But after meeting with doctors, Wade realized surgery was inevitable and delaying it until after the Olympics would seriously jeopardize his chance of being ready for the start of Miami's championship defense.
"We're totally supportive of Dwyane's decision and hope that he has a full and speedy recovery. He has been an amazing member of USA Basketball," Krzyzewski said in a statement.
Wade told The AP last week that making sure he's ready for the rest of his career with the Heat would be his top priority, though the decision to pass on a chance to play in his third — and what would have been final — Olympics was extremely difficult nonetheless.
"The reason I wanted to play this time around was because of the guys, a lot of guys from that team and the camaraderie that we shared – that was special. I'm going to miss that," Wade said. "And another reason why I wanted to play again is that my sons are a little older this time. They'd have an opportunity to be there, to share in the experience."
Wade's decision means that Miami will have no more than two players on the U.S. team in London. Finals MVP LeBron James is a lock for the team, and forward Chris Bosh said earlier this week that he's "all in — for now" despite missing nine playoff games with a strained abdominal muscle. Bosh said he would confer with doctors before making a final commitment to the Olympic team.
USA Basketball won 26 of its last 27 games with Wade in the lineup and is 36-5 overall with him on teams. Three of those five losses came at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when the Americans left with the bronze medal. Wade won his first NBA championship two years later and averaged 16 points while coming off the bench for the "Redeem Team" that won gold in Beijing in 2008.
"D-Wade has a lot of equity with USA Basketball and has made great contributions to our program and we're sorry he won't be with us this summer, but we know he'll be with us in spirit," Colangelo said.
The gold medal game four years ago was perhaps Wade's best in a red, white and blue uniform: He scored a game-high 27 points on only 12 shots, as the Americans topped Spain 118-107 for the Olympic title.
"I'm happy that I can focus on my body a little bit," Wade said. "I'm not happy to get surgery, but I'm happy that I can focus on getting better."