Archive 75

Dwyane Wade

By Michael C. Wright·

Toughness and finesse. It’s the Chicago way, and Dwyane Wade oozes this hometown style. The electrifying feats tinged with just the right amount of grit speak to a childhood spent idolizing superstar Michael Jordan and the rugged, hometown Bulls.

The fifth pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, Wade took the league by storm almost immediately, averaging 16.2 points as a rookie in leading the Miami Heat to the 2004 playoffs, where he became just the fourth first-year player in history to lead his team in the postseason in both points and assists.

Nicknamed “Flash,” Wade built a reputation for a relentless, charging style and had a penchant for converting seemingly impossible layups in crowds around the basket in clutch situations.

Heat fans affectionately changed Miami-Dade County to Miami-Wade Country during Wade’s playing days, and you can see exactly why in these clips from the guard’s postseason debut in 2004. They say the playoffs are where players build reputations, and it’s clear the rookie Wade wanted to make an immediate impression on the Miami Heat fan base.

You see Wade spinning through crowds for layups, the up-and-under moves, and the clutch corner 3 in these clips.

But in his first playoff game against the New Orleans Hornets, Wade zipped through the lane to loft up a floater over Jamaal Magloire for a game-winner. By the time Miami reached Game 6, the Heat rookie had already drilled two game-winning shots in the series. Miami would go on to defeat New Orleans in seven games to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, before falling to the Indiana Pacers in six games despite Wade increasing his scoring average to 21.0 points from 15.4 in the previous round.

Wade’s performance in that series flashed just a glimpse of what was to come. 

In his third season, Wade led Miami to 52 wins in the regular season, averaging 27.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists. You just knew Wade would take his game up another notch once the lights shined brightest.

In this video, you see exactly where Wade and the Heat turned the tide in the 2006 NBA Finals after falling behind 0-2 to the Dallas Mavericks. Trailing 89-76 with 6:26 left to play in Game 3, Wade led a Miami comeback by scoring 15 of his game-high 42 points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 98-96 victory.

After thrashing Dallas 98-74 in Game 4, Wade pulled off arguably the biggest play of the series at the end of overtime in Game 5. Receiving the inbounds pass with 9.1 seconds left, Wade dribbled through four Mavericks defenders for a clean look at the basket, drawing a whistle as he was fouled on the play. Wade stepped to the free-throw line to swish the game-winning free throws, as Miami seized a 3-2 lead with a 101-100 win.

Wade connected on 21 of 25 from the free-throw line and finished with a game-high 43 points, racking up 26 of those points in the second half, and 17 in the fourth quarter alone.

Wade and the Heat stared down a 14-point deficit early in Game 6, but similar to Game 3, the club rallied back to capture its first NBA title. The victory marked Miami’s first victory in Dallas in more than four years as Wade scored 36 points on the way to earning The Finals MVP.

Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals in the 2006 Finals, and his relentless, attacking style led to the guard shooting a total of 97 free throws that series.

The grand entrance two years prior featured Wade and new co-stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh all wearing white Heat uniforms as plumes of smoke wafted through the air, with a forklift raising the trio in front of a packed house at the team’s arena.

By now, Wade was the undisputed king of Miami. But even he took a pay cut to stay, thus enabling the Heat to bring aboard the new stars James and Bosh.

In that first season together, Wade and the two new additions led Miami to a regular-season record of 58-24, before falling short in the NBA Finals against the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks. In Game 3 of that series, we all saw Wade appear to chew out James for not being assertive enough.

But Wade wouldn’t figure out the recipe to success until January of the following season. Rehabbing a foot injury, Wade watched from the bench as James dominated, displaying the skillset that made him a two-time MVP in Cleveland. The eureka moment hit almost immediately.

So, Wade decided to take a backseat, telling James to continue playing like the MVP he was. Wade also stressed to James that he shouldn’t “worry about me.” Wade knew he’d find his footing as the team’s second superstar, and ultimately that would make the Miami Heat a better team.

“He just basically told me that he wanted me to be the leader of the team with my voice, with my play, and he was gonna take everything else from there,” James explained. “It just showed how great of a player he is to be able to sacrifice.”

Wade’s selflessness resulted in the Heat capturing back-to-back titles.

Coming off his third championship, Wade would earn his 10th All-Star selection in 2014 at 32 years old, but by now he was starting to recognize the finiteness of his career.

Remember, Wade won his first championship at 24, in just his third NBA season.

“When I got there, [I thought] this is how it’s supposed to go,” Wade said. “I had Shaquille O’Neal, then you’ve got Alonzo [Mourning]. We had all these players. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is it. This is how it’s supposed to be.’ Then after that, it went downhill. So, now when you get into these situations – the Eastern Conference Finals, the Finals – you really try to take full advantage of them because you don’t have next year all the time as you start getting up there in the numbers, but also you just understand this is not guaranteed to anyone.”

Star teammate and close friend James announced in July of 2014 that he would be leaving the Heat to return to Cleveland, and Wade played just two more seasons in Miami before joining his hometown Chicago Bulls.

Wade eventually returned to Miami in 2018. But his 2013 championship with the Heat would be his last.

 

 

Go through this bursting assortment of dunks and pick your favorite because you’ve got plenty of choices.

Then, think of all Wade’s victims. The list is long. Big men like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal, Emeka Okafor, and Anderson Varejao … they’ve all ended up on the wrong side of poster dunks by the 6-foot-4 Wade.

Find that replay button because you’ll want to watch this one over and over. 

The fifth pick of one of the greatest draft classes in NBA history, Wade became friends with three of the players picked ahead of him in James, Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. But Wade recognizes that when he came into the league, he wasn’t considered a household name like his top five counterparts.

In this video, Wade flips through some of the snapshots of his storied 16-year career, reflecting on moments, teammates, his mother Jolinda, and coaches that helped along the way.

Listening to Wade here, you quickly recognize one central theme: Winning.

That’s what Wade was about. That’s how Wade ascended into one of the NBA’s top 75 players.