Why Dwyane Wade will be considered the greatest Heat player ever
MANILA, Philippines – Like many NBA players often do, Dwyane Wade conducted a question-and-answer segment on Twitter which took place during the wee hours of Tuesday, July 7.
But unlike your every day NBA player, Wade didn’t shy away from firing responses to some of the more difficult - and some would even say controversial - questions that were thrown his way.
“Do you miss LeBron carrying you,” Tommey, a San Antonio Spurs fan, asked the Miami Heat legend, to which he responded “I haven’t been carried since my mother gave birth to me..,” - an answer that will surely be plastered on sports websites and blogs all over the world for the rest of the day.
Do you love your fans, another Twitter handle wanted to know. Wade’s response was anything but a political answer you typically get from athletes: “I do…but the ones who are reals fans of me the person. With all my baggage..Not just me the player..”
How about playing with Kobe Bryant, who’s grown a reputation over the past few years of being self-centered and unwilling to accept his basketball mortality, factors that have seemed to make Los Angeles not the free agency destination it once was.
“I have before..” Wade said (referring to the 2008 USA Olympic team), “and why wouldn’t you want to play with of the games greatest winners??? The name of the game is..”
I’ll finish that sentence for Dwyane Wade: “winning.” The name of the game is winning. And throughout his Miami Heat career, Wade has won a lot. The franchise has 3 NBA championships - all attained in years Wade was wearing a Heat jersey. Over the past decade, the Miami Heat have failed to make the playoffs only two times. They’ve been considered Eastern Conference contenders nearly every season since Wade was taken fifth overall by Pat Riley in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Here’s another interesting question Wade was asked during his Q-and-A, and the answer will absolutely lead to many headlines over the next 24 hours.
“[In] the end [do] you think you deserve to go down as the greatest Miami Heat ever?”
Wade’s response: “YES”.
The Miami Heat are a relatively young NBA organization, about to enter their 28th year when the 2015-2016 NBA season kicks off. Over their history, they’ve boasted a copious amount of stars: Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Goran Dragic.
Given Riley’s track record, it’s hard to imagine the Heat not getting more eye-catching names over the next few years. Hassan Whiteside, a diamond Old Man Riley found in the rough from the NBA D-League a year back, is already on course to being a major NBA player himself.
When LaMarcus Aldridge was coveted by the Heat GM just this week, rival executives shook with terror at the thought of Miami landing him, even though their salary cap situation made the prospect a longshot.
When Kevin Durant hits the free agency market next offseason, rest assured Miami will have as great a chance as anyone to lure him away from Oklahoma City.
But here’s the thing: from O’Neal, to LeBron, to whomever becomes Miami’s next poster player for over the next decade, they likely won’t be considered the greatest Heat player ever. Why? That designation is reserved for Wade, and will belong with him for a very, very long time.
Maybe even forever.
Look at the numbers: Wade leads the Heat franchise in games played with 781. He leads the franchise in most ever points scored with 18,812, nearly doubling Mourning’s 9,459. He also holds franchise records for minutes played, field goals, free throws, assists, steals, and win shares. At 6-foot-4, he’s fourth in rebounding and second in blocks.
But why Wade will be - if not already is - considered the greatest Miami Heat player ever goes beyond what the statistics show.
Do you remember basketball in South Florida in the late 80s, 90s, or early 2000s? Sure, those Riley-coached and Hardaway/Mourning-led Heat teams made postseason runs and provided classic playoff series with the New York Knicks to last a lifetime. But Miami was a football town. During those times, the bandwagon was centered on the play of Dan Marino’s Dolphins and the legendary University of Miami Hurricanes teams who took the American national sports scene by storm.
But over the past few years, that’s changed. The Dolphins’ ineptitude - they’ve made the NFL Playoffs just once in the past 10 years - has played a role, and so has the decreasing interest in the Hurricanes, who made more noise this past year for switching apparel from Nike to Adidas more than the product they displayed on the football field.
But the rise of basketball’s popularity in Miami wouldn’t be where it is today without Wade. Even at the height of LeBron’s dominance inside the American Airlines Arena, it was when Wade would get in a rhythm that Heat fans truly turned boisterous.
After each time he would hit a game-winner, he subsequently turned to the crowd chanting his name, pointed two fingers to the ground, and made a statement that was always loud and clear: “This is my house.”
Miami sports is Dwyane Wade.
Dwyane Wade is Miami.
Watching him leave in free agency would have been 10 times worse for Heat fans than seeing LeBron return home to Cleveland. Why? James was always a son of Ohio. Wade was born in Chicago, but became South Florida’s adopted son the moment he put on a Heat cap on draft day. When Miami started the Heat Lifer campaign after LeBron’s departure, Wade was their poster boy, and rightfully so.
Letting him walk away, despite the dollars he was deservingly asking for, was simply unacceptable for a franchise that prides itself in taking care of its own and being first-class.
One day, a statue of him will be built outside Miami’s home arena. His jersey will go up the rafters alongside Mourning’s and Hardaway’s. And yet, it might still not seem like enough of a testament to everything he gave to the franchise.
From the legendary finals performance of 2006, to carrying the team on his shoulders with MVP-caliber seasons in 2009 and 2010, to surrendering minutes and touches to LeBron and Bosh for two more championships, to the numerous times his blood has been splattered on the floors of the AAA, to the amount of dollars he’s left on the table over the course of his career to help his team improve.
Wade’s performance on the court, mixed with everything else he’s done for the franchise - from putting them on the map of South Florida sports to personifying everything the Heat stands for: sacrifice, commitment, family - will by why he will go down as Miami’s greatest player once he calls it a career.
Wade is 33. He’s no longer the Flash of 2006. He’s no longer the guy some considered as the best player in the NBA from 5 years go. But is he washed up? Absolutely not. Whatever remains of the ride he has left in the NBA, it’s going to be absolutely fun to watch.
In these changing times, courage and clarity become even more important.
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