Dwyane Wade: Team USA Absence Will Deliver Blow to Legacy of Miami Heat Star

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystJune 28, 2012

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Dwyane Wade #9 of the United States celebrates in the fourth quarter of the gold medal game against Spain during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Through a series of swift developments, Dwyane Wade is suddenly in danger of losing his grasp on a spot among the nation's all-time great basketball players. After taking the back seat to LeBron James during the Miami Heat's journey to the 2012 NBA championship, the veteran guard will now spend his summer watching Team USA do damage at the 2012 London Olympics from his living room couch due to a knee injury.

A handful of his peers, including teammates Chris Bosh and LeBron James, could ultimately be considered the core of the greatest basketball squad assembled since "The Dream Team" of 1992 but Wade won't be in the mix. If this group of Olympians can claim a second straight gold medal, they'll become a part of American basketball lore, while Wade will be left out.

He'll be left on the doorstep of greatness and there's no doubt that it will have a long-lasting impact on his standing among this country's superstar basketball players.

Wade's status in the NBA isn't in question, but the way America views him among the nation's superior players could be greatly affected. His career statistics and a pair of championship rings speak for themselves on a professional level, but it will be interesting to witness the fallout that will follow today's announcement.

Wade has essentially been demoted - willingly or not - to the number two option on a Heat team he once willed to an NBA Finals victory in 2006 as a third-year player. Now he's forced to stand aside and watch players like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant capture the attention of billions of global viewers.

The extent of Wade's knee injury isn't clear at this point, although it's widely known that he was playing through pain during Miami's recent postseason run. However, most NBA athletes deal with soreness in some capacity after the arduous season and that's why NBA superstars who opt to suit up for the Olympics should be applauded.

They truly sacrifice valuable rest time to take on the challenge of protecting America's supremacy in the sport. 16-year NBA veteran Kobe Bryant, who has absolutely nothing to prove at this point after five NBA championships and a gold medal, remains committed to playing in London despite his obviously aging body.

Following the Heat's championship victory, Wade had this to say about his Olympic outlook. 

"I'm going to sit down and make what I feel is the best decision for me and the most important decision for my career and then go from there," he told Sun Sentinal reporter Shandel Richardson. "I don't know what's going to happen yet. We can all speculate but I won't know until I sit down with doc."

With NBA stars stepping up and taking aim at gold, the pressure will be on Wade to convince his fans that competing truly wasn't an option. Regardless of whether he could or couldn't have played if he wanted to, Wade might be missing out on an opportunity to cement his legacy as an all-time great American basketball star.

The 30-year-old was supposed to be a major factor on Team USA during the London Olympics. Wade was the leading scorer on the American squad that claimed a gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing and he also participated on the disappointing 2004 Olympic team that settled for bronze. 

Like other members of the "Redeem Team", the 2008 Olympic victory did wonders for Wade's image. Under the guidance of Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, the group took a refreshing no-nonsense approach into the global competition and helped shift public opinion about the overall attitude of NBA players, whose image had been eroding for quite some time.

Wade served as a co-captain on the 2008 Olympic squad and became a face of its success. A third appearance on the Olympic stage would have added another important chapter to his successful career but now he'll have to watch two Heat teammates play alongside fellow NBA superstars without him.

Should Team USA win another gold in London, it will warrant a what-could-have-been blemish for Wade's basketball legacy.