Back in the spring of 2004, Dwyane Wade made a huge splash on the NBA scene when he raised his game in the postseason and led the Miami Heat to a first round series victory against the New Orleans Hornets. The Heat were eventually defeated in the second round of the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers; however, Wade showcased enough talent for Shaquille O’Neal to want to leave what had already become a broken marriage with the Los Angeles Lakers to join him down in South Beach.
By the time the following spring started, the Miami Heat were picked by many to defeat the Detroit Pistons (who had defeated O’Neal’s Lakers the year prior in the NBA Finals) in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami was eliminated at home in Game 7, but it led to Pat Riley retooling the roster to find better role players to surround Wade and Shaq with the hope of ending the following season with a title. His goal was achieved by June 2006 as the Miami Heat won an exciting Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Dallas.
If we fast forward to the present, Dwyane Wade has not changed. The parts around him have moved around but he has remained one of the best players in the league.
After falling victim to consecutive first round exits (in 2009 and 2010), Pat Riley once again struck gold and surrounded Wade with quality teammates. No news there, but the one thing that failed to get any type of publicity with respect to Flash was that Shaquille O’Neal (back in 2004), LeBron James and Chris Bosh all wanted to play with him because of his willingness to share the spotlight.
Indeed, Wade is more than happy to be part of the Jackson 5 as opposed to being the iconic Michael Jackson as long as the team wins. This explains why players that were stars on their respective teams agreed to join him down in Miami. And truthfully, can we really argue with the results this season?
- 58-24 regular season record in 2011
- 13-3 record in 2011 postseason
- 9-0 record at home in 2011 playoffs
- 1-0 record in 2011 NBA Finals
Make no mistake though, Wade has figured out how to fit in on the team but he’s also played at times like the best player in the league, on a squad that features LeBron James. Whether it’s by scoring, rebounding, getting others involved, getting into the passing lanes, defending his man or picking up an opposing big man on a switch or intimidating an opponent with a huge block, Wade just does it all for the Heat. Have a look at his production so far in the playoffs:
As impressive as the numbers are, the most interesting part of Wade’s game cannot be quantified.
Indeed, very few players in the league are better than Dwyane Wade when it comes to seizing the moment. Late in games when momentum can easily decide the winner of a contest, the Heat’s star guard usually finds a way to make plays.
Allow me to present evidence that not even judge Greg Mathis could refute.
Exhibit A: With Miami leading Philadelphia 90-87 and 1:35 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, Dwyane Wade drove left and got hacked on a shot attempt and yet still scored the basket that essentially sealed the game.
Exhibit B: With Chicago leading Miami 79-72 and 1:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade converted a rare four-point play late in the game that gave the Heat life and led to a surprising comeback victory.
And yet, all anyone could talk about after the series against the Bulls, was how Wade seemed to be injured and that his level aggressiveness kept fluctuating. Word on the street was that his shoulder was bothering him and that it limited his mobility.
In addition, LeBron’s performance in the Chicago series (especially late in games) overshadowed Wade’s play and almost turned him into an afterthought. Consequently, many wondered if Wade would be able to perform when the bright lights of the Finals came on.
Early on in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade struggled to make plays. He seemed to lack explosiveness as well as his usual sheer determination to get to the basket.
Mind you, with the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter, Miami turned to the superstar guard who stirred the ship home with seven crucial points and three assists late in the game.
This is the Wade we have grown accustomed to seeing: the one that shines brightest when surrounded by talent.
In 2006, the star guard looked to his teammates to help him carry the load. And although the execution might be different, the idea is the same in 2011. If he and his teammates can continue to play how they have for much of the playoffs, the end result might be the same as it was five years ago for the franchise.
Cue in Eminem:
“Nowadays everybody wanna talk
Like they got something to say
But nothing comes out when they move their lips
Just a bunch of gibberish,
And #$@$*&^ act like they forgot about…”