Posted Oct 24 2006 6:02PM
As part of its All-Star Sports Issue (November 2006), GQ features editor Joel Lovell profiles Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, a "legend in the making" for the cover-story. What keeps him motivated? What went wrong in Japan? What does Flash have that Michael Jordan didn't? The following is an excerpt:
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He's got the NBA title, the fat contract, the endless endorsement deals, and the kind of moves we haven't seen since Michael Jordan roamed the earth. The only question left for Dwyane Wade is, can you have all this and stay humble? Photographs by Peggy Sirota.
By Joel Lovell
It's hard for a writer to sound more like a bag of gas than when he's attempting to elevate sports into art, but if you're thinking of Wade only in the context of the NBA, or even in the context of basketball, then you're missing the more fundamental and exciting thing about him: When he's playing basketball, he's as beautiful as any human expressing him- or herself physically in any way.
Turns out it's not so easy to bring this up in your typical athlete interview, though. We have five more minutes? Umm, okay, let me just see. Team USA needing to learn how to defend against the pick-and-roll? Check. Emerging from the shadow of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony? Check. Working on shooting range? Check. Oh, yeah, there is this one other thing. I was thinking that when you cross over your dribble and paralyze your defender and then explode into the lane and elevate toward the hoop—and especially when you then have to make spontaneous adjustments in midair that seem proof of your take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the laws governing our universe—well, it seems to me that at those moments you've transcended basketball and are existing in a realm of pure physical grace, and that this grace has to do with raw athletic ability, for sure, but is also a function of your being (and I don't mean anything gay by this) an extraordinarily attractive human specimen. What do you think?
Before I lay out various basketball facts, you need to understand that Dwyane Wade has been in the NBA for only three seasons, and that prior to his going wild in the 2003 NCAA tournament (when he turned in one of the great performances in tournament history and led Marquette to the Final Four over the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats), he was practically unknown. He didn't play on his high school's varsity team until his junior year. He was recruited by only three colleges, each of them local (Illinois State and DePaul University, in addition to Marquette). And while he was the fifth player selected in the extremely talented 2003 NBA draft pool, he was also never, ever mentioned in those early conversations about who would emerge first, LeBron or Carmelo or, um, the Serbian sensation Darko Milicic. Nobody expected Wade to do anything remotely resembling what he's done so far.
Which is: win the 2006 NBA Finals MVP by more or less single-handedly bringing the Miami Heat back from a 2-0 deficit against the Dallas Mavericks; become the only player in NBA history to average at least thirty points on 69.5 percent field-goal shooting—69.5 percent! I can't hit my wastebasket 69.5 percent of the time—over four consecutive NBA playoff games; join seven other guys, whose names happen to be Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Steve Nash (so, basically, God's all-time greatest NBA team), on the list of those who averaged twenty-five points, eight assists, and six rebounds while shooting 50 percent or more from the field in a playoff series.
When you think of "efficient" basketball players, you tend to conjure an image of guys whose games are crushingly dull—like Tim Duncan, say. Undeniably great player, on the road to the Hall of Fame, a man who I wish played for the New York Knicks so I wouldn't have to spend the next several months in a gin-soaked stupor—but not exactly a human highlight reel. Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, not only makes very few mistakes on the basketball court but also creates the suspicion ... (He then went into this excellent reverie, which seems worth sharing: "Doesn't he make you think of the Harlem Globetrotters? Like, imagine if the Globetrotters weren't an act. Imagine their 'opponents' were not just playing along in order to make the tricks look better, but that instead the Globetrotters were these freakishly talented players who actually weren't allowed to participate in the regular league because of their special powers. Then imagine one of them somehow fooled the NBA, somehow found a way to conceal his genetic profile from the league doctors, and got drafted onto one of the real teams. For the most part, he'd have to play like everyone else, so as not to blow his cover. Well, not like everyone else. He'd be brilliant, of course. But human-brilliant. Not a challenge to our reality or anything. Only every now and then, in the heat of a moment, he'd lose control for just a second, not even thinking, and do something he's not supposed to be able to do. And the confused humans watching the game would be like, 'Did he just…?' ")
Yup, that pretty much captures it.
For the entire article, pick up the November issue of GQ.