The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA title at the expense of the Miami Heat, but not before Dwyane Wade gave them everything he could and then some to make the task extremely difficult for them. Wade is quite possibly the best shooting guard in the NBA today and consequently every game is an opportunity to go out and prove it. However, there was a time when he was a nobody by NBA standards, but he worked hard to make sure that such a thing would remain only temporary.
In order to understand whom former Marquette star is today, one has to look back at the steps he took several years ago to reach his current platform.
Wade was raised in Chicago by his mother, where his three older sisters looked after him. He spent most of his time with the youngest of the three (Tragil Wade); following her around and even once sticking up for her when a bully tried to intimidate her. As far as Dwyane was concerned, things were perfect for him; however his mother’s drugs problems made it as such that a hard decision would have to be made: her only son would have to go live with his father.
Thus, Dwyane’s sister Tragil, had him believe they were going to the movies and instead she dropped him off at their father’s house and told him she would be back the following day. Dwyane waited but it was all for naught. He now had to live with his father and his stepbrothers who shared a much different approach with him than his sisters had done with him previously.
The Heat’s star joined a home where his family was incredibly tough. They would play in the backyard and no fouls ever got called. If you wanted to play, you had to take the hits and keep coming. Dwyane was unaccustomed to this physical style and occasionally shied away from the contact.
His brothers made him understand that in order to become the next great player, quitting could never be an option. He had to stay with it and toughen up. And one day, Wade surprised them all. As they were playing in the backyard, Dwyane took the ball and attacked the basket where he was met by his older brother. Instead of avoiding the contact, he went up and dunked over him (his brother claims it was an offensive foul).
The new found confidence helped him become a high school star where he went on to dazzle people wit his skill set. His aerial attacks and ball-handling skills got him noticed by Marquette university head coach Tom Crean. Wade happily accepted to join the program but was met with some adversity when his test scores prevented him from playing with the team in his first year at the school.
Instead of simply allowing Wade to sit out the whole year, the head coach put tremendous pressure on his prized recruit to practice harder than everyone else and challenge his teammates. In addition, Dwyane would serve as an unofficial assistant coach during his first year at Marquette where he was asked to keep track of everything happening during games and also suggest plays to keep the opposition off track.
For all of Wade’s amazing basketball gifts, his coach turned him into a thinking player; thus he would be able to analyze and understand exactly what opponents were trying to do to him and his teammates and counter them. By the time Wade hit the court, few teams in college basketball could stop the young player. By his last year at Marquette, Wade led the team to the Final Four all the while averaging 21.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists on 50.1 percent field goal shooting in 33 games.
His play during the NCAA tournament propelled him to the national audience but he still flew under the radar in comparison to Carmelo Anthony who led Syracuse to the national title that season and LeBron James who had just dominated the high school ranks and turned himself into the undisputed number one overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft.
The Miami Heat were still impressed by the young guard and selected him fifth in the draft. Wade was a terrific rookie as evidenced by 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on 46.5 percent field goal shooting. And yet no one noticed. By the time the 2004 All-Star weekend rolled up, Wade was convinced that people would know his name and want to get to know what he was all about.
He was shocked to find out that all anyone and everyone wanted to know about was LeBron and Carmelo. Where Wade expected to share the spotlight with the two stars, he came to find out that he was just one of many Transformers that essentially just did not measure up to Optimus Prime (LeBron) and Rodimus Prime (Carmelo). And thus, Wade vowed to himself that by the end of the season, everyone would know his name.
In the second half of the season, the star guard delivered for the Heat late in ball games and led them to a 42-40 record. Miami’s regular season performance meant that they would participate in the playoffs and play against an experienced New Orleans Hornets team (the Hornets played in the Eastern Conference at the time).
With Game 1 tied and 11 seconds left in the game, Miami head coach Stan Van Gundy put the ball in the hands of the rookie. In the Undeniable Rise of Dwyane Wade, the guard had this to share about the moment:
“Coach called the play for me in the huddle, and I’m a rookie and I’m nervous. I’m scared but I’m a competitor and I live for it.”
Wade went on to dribble the clock down, crossed over Baron Davis and put up a teardrop that gently went through the hoop and gave the Heat the victory. The Heat went on to win the series in seven games and then were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the following round. Nonetheless, true to his word, the world now knew about Dwyane Wade the NBA player.
The following season marked a huge change for the Miami Heat as they brought in Shaquille O’Neal to the team. In previous seasons, O’Neal’s relationships with star players had always eventually soured and thus some wondered if they would be able to share the spotlight. Upon arriving in Miami, Shaq stated that he was joining Wade’s team while Dwyane had already said prior that the Heat were O’Neal’s team. Both individuals would develop a solid relationship both on and off the court that would help the Heat win 59 games during the 2004-2005 regular season.
Although O’Neal was injured in the early rounds of the playoffs, Wade picked up the slack for his center and helped lead them to Eastern Conference Finals where the defending champions were waiting for them. The Detroit Pistons had defeated O’Neal’s Lakers in the Finals the previous season and many thought that he would get redemption against them with Wade by his side.
Unfortunately for the Heat, O’Neal would not get his revenge. Dwyane Wade suffered a painful rib injury in Game 5, which forced him to miss Game 6 but had him back for Game 7. In the final showdown, the Pistons proved to be an ever so slightly more experienced and cohesive unit, and thus won on the road to get back to the NBA Finals.
The loss stung Wade deeply and he dedicated his offseason to training just so he would be able to take down the Pistons the following year.
In the meantime, Miami added some new veterans to the team but with Shaq going down early in the season; a roster built to complement O’Neal struggled mightily. Later during the season, they would get blown out in Dallas by 36 points and then would have to face Detroit on the following night.
The Pistons had been in control for three quarters, and entered the fourth up by 13 points. Sensing that his team needed a spark, Dwyane Wade took over in the fourth quarter and scored 17 points. More importantly though, he drained the game winning jumper over the outstretched arms of Tayshaun Prince; and that’s when all of the veterans realized that the team was in fact Wade’s and that if they were going to be successful, it was he who would be the key.
And just like that, the Heat started to jell and went on to finish the season with a 52-30 record. The Heat opened the postseason against the Bulls and dispatched them in six games. Then came the Nets in the second round and they were no match, falling in five games.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat once again faced off against the Pistons but this time things were different. With everyone on Miami clicking and Wade putting up 26.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game on 61.7 percent field goal shooting against Detroit, the Heat dispatched them in six games and made it to Finals.
Wade’s final test lay ahead against the Mavericks. With Dallas leading the series 2-0 and leading Game 3 by double digits late in the fourth quarter, Wade brought his team back and singlehandedly won the game with his forays to the hoop. His aggressive attacking style would show up again in the next three games; all of them Heat wins. By leading his team to the title, Wade was not only a star; he had also earned himself the NBA Finals MVP.
The following seasons would be hard on the star guard as the team failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs from 2007 to 2010. The team’s chances all rested on Wade given the fact he was the only elite player on the team and they paid a huge price for it. The former Marquette star performed to his exceptional standards but the team did not always follow suit.
Thus, when he had the chance to become a free agent in the summer of 2010, he took a long look at his options. In the end though, he chose to remain in Miami where he lured in the biggest free agent in team history: LeBron James.
Dwyane Wade went from being the forgotten third wheel in his rookie season to winning an NBA title and getting James to sign with his team.
The 2010-11 NBA regular season was a turbulent one for the Miami Heat but Wade’s play as well as his leadership were important components that helped get the team to the Finals.
Wade and his teammates might have been humbled in the championship round, but his story is far from over. Next season will bring new challenges and new chapters to his basketball life; let’s at least make sure we keep following along.
Because so far it’s all been worth the Wade….