Wade played collegiately for Marquette University, leading the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. He was the first partial qualifier in school history. Perhaps his most memorable collegiate moment came in the 2003 Midwest Regional Final in the NCAA Tournament in Minneapolis. Against heavily favored No. 1 Kentucky, Wade recorded a rare triple-double, recording 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists to top the Wildcats 83-69. Wade was only the fourth player in NCAA Tournament history to record a triple-double, after Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Andre Miller.
Wade's strong play in the tournament caused his NBA Draft standing to increase significantly, and he elected to forgo his senior year at Marquette. Selected fifth overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, Wade quickly became an emerging star on a young Miami Heat team. He distinguished himself with outstanding performances in the 2004 NBA Playoffs, particularly against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. However, Wade's successful rookie season was overshadowed by the hype surrounding fellow rookies LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
As a testimony to his success, Wade was chosen as a member of the 2004 USA basketball team during the 2004 offseason. However, he had a limited role as most of the playing time was given to more experienced veterans. During the 2003-2004 season, Wade was able to lead his team, the Miami Heat to the playoffs.
Shaquille O' Neal was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to Miami before Wade's second season with the team. Wade's scoring average increased considerably in his second season, and he became known as an emerging superstar in the league. In the first round of the 2005 NBA playoffs (against the New Jersey Nets), Wade became one of only seven players in NBA history to average at least 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds while making half his shots in a playoff series, averaging 26.3 points, 8.8 assists, and 6.0 rebounds at 50% field-goal shooting. The other players to accomplish this are all members of the Basketball Hall of Fame: Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Amazingly, Wade accomplished this feat once again in the 2nd round of the 2005 playoffs against the Washington Wizards. The success of the Heat's 2005 playoff run and Wade's impressive performances with Shaquille O' Neal hampered by injury led to an explosion of media attention and popularity for the budding superstar. He is currently signed with the Heat through 2006-07.