Dwyane Wade's Bamboozle Club
The Numbers Behind One Of The Game's Best Pumpfakes
Once you’re in the air, there’s nothing you can do.
Dwyane Wade has such a particular rhythm. He’s so often able to disguise his true intentions, whether he has the ball in his hands or he’s standing seemingly innocently in the corner, by alternating quick accelerations with a foot riding the brake pedal. Yet you can still almost see it coming. He’ll casually crossover a couple of times, sizing up the defense, and you know the pumpfake is on the menu. You’ve seen it hundreds of times on tape. Don’t jump. Just don’t jump.
Then there you are, floating in the air as the record scratches and the frame freezes. The rest of the world readies the obligatory, ‘Yep, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I ended up in this situation’.
Like so many others before, you’ve been bamboozled.
“[He] was so explosive that you had to honor everything about his game,” Shane Battier said. “It has so much to do with the pace at which you play. [He] plays with such a mix of explosiveness and steadiness that as a defender, you’re jumpy. That’s the best way I can put it. You’re just jumpy. You tend to react to any little movement.”
Over the years it’s become accepted as fact that Wade had one of the most lethal pumpfakes this side of the 1976 NBA-ABA Merger. No advanced analytics, no amount of fancy camera tracking was necessary. It was on every scouting report. No arguments.
But with Wade playing his last regular-season home game at the AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday night, about to start the countdown on his Hall of Fame eligibility, we figured it was about time to put a number to the fakes, if only to offer one more bullet point on a resumé that hardly needs another.
That number, with a handful of games left in his career, is 580. That’s how many times Wade has pumpfaked a defender into a shooting foul, playoffs included. When you said to yourself at one point that ‘It seems like Wade gets someone with that every game’, you weren’t that far off. It was about once every two games.
Around 1,350 players, give or take, have played at least a single minute against the Miami HEAT since Wade was drafted in 2003. And he got 339 of them to jump.
Which means Wade got 25% of all the players he ever played against to bite.
The one who bit on the fake the most? That would be John Salmons, who did it nine times.
Within that 339, there’s a special group – those special 10 who bit on the fake twice in the same game. Shane Battier, the vaunted defender, is one of those 10.
You may think that the day Wade invited Battier into such a prestigious club, November 23 of 2007, would have been memorable, to say the least. But for Battier, it was Friday.
“Yeah. Ok,” Battier says, laughing, when reminded of the occasion. He doesn’t dispute that it happened – there is video evidence after all – but he has no recollection. “I’ve played a lot of games.”
He does, however, remember the scouting reports, and how they couldn’t prepare you for the real thing.
“I think there are two players that are kind of susceptible to a super unique move like [his] pumpfake,” Battier said. “One, the guys who don’t see him very often. It’s a little different if you’re seeing him four times a year and you’re really locking in on his tendencies. As much as you can key in on a guy if you see the pumpfake on a scouting report, if you don’t see him you’re more susceptible to it.
“And also rookies. Rookies are jumpy to begin with, and when you’re playing a legend like [Wade] you’re just reacting to anything.
“I probably fell into the former [group]. That’s my excuse.”
One of Battier’s fouls involved questionable contact, to be sure. You can hear him disagree with the official almost before he hits the ground. The other was textbook. Dribble up. Jump stop. Fake. There he goes. After that one, the camera shows Battier’s face, one with the look of acceptance.
“I just look at is as, it’s not an embarrassing thing,” Battier said. “He gets everybody. It’s an All-Time pumpfake, so it’s a badge of honor that I jumped into it.”
Wade wasn’t the first to use it, nor will he be the last. A variety of foul-drawing measures have been legislated out by the league over the years, but it’s tough to touch the pumpfake. It’s a fundamental taught at all levels. If you manage to outwit your defender by getting them to leave their feet, the call is yours. Wade earned 1,116 free-throws, or almost 13% of his career total, doing just that.
Is he the best to ever do it? We’ll probably never be sure. Battier makes sure to mention the fake of Paul Pierce, but says the best he ever saw was that of Sam Young, who played four seasons but mastered the move in such a way that his name will long be associated with the move. Michael Jordan fooled people, too, and Kevin McHale always warrants mention in such a discussion. It’s possible there were, or will be, others to do it better.
But 580 times? There may never be someone so prolific at it.
That’s the sort of player the league is losing. Not just a dunker. A driver. A passer. The league is losing a true craftsman. Wade is and always will be unique, and there will never again be a player who did it quite the way he did it. The pumpfake may only be a footnote in the career retrospectives, a little line mixed in for flavor, but it was part of the formula for greatness. It mattered.
So when you think of Wade this week, or any other time, take a moment to remember those who jumped. All 339 of them.
|The Guys Who Jumped|
|Tim Hardaway Jr||4|
|Keith Van Horn||1|
|Chris Douglas Roberts||1|
|Wayne Selden Jr||1|