Who else possesses, along with immense talent, the intuitive understanding of what his teammates need from him in any given game situation? Who else has the unwavering admiration of every single one of his teammates?
Flashback to the 2012 playoffs, specifically the Heat's series against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In the second quarter of Game 5, Tyler Hansbrough hit Wade in the face and opened a cut above his eye while Wade was going up for a layup.
Not even a minute later, Udonis Haslem retaliated on Wade's behalf by striking Hansbrough in the face (masking it as a block attempt) when the Pacers forward attempted his next shot.
Now, why did Haslem do that? The blow would earn him a suspension in Game 6—a game in which the Heat were already without Chris Bosh. The answer: Heat players love Wade—the heart and soul of the team.
Haslem had this to say to the Miami Herald:
“I can’t imagine anything I wouldn't do for Dwyane."
Similarly, Wade will do everything he can for Haslem and the rest of his teammates. Without both Bosh and Haslem, the Heat desperately needed Wade to take over in Game 6, and take over he did.
Wade scored 41 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, leading the Heat to a win and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
And while you'd think Wade would keep the game ball from Game 6, you'd be wrong. He did have it, but gave it to Haslem on the plane following the game, thanking Haslem for sticking up for him.
“For my brother,” Wade said for all to hear. “For his sacrifice. I don’t think we win this series without him.”
Sacrifice is clearly something that means a lot to Wade, considering he's done plenty of it.
While it was unselfish of Chris Bosh and LeBron James to take less than a maximum contract to come to Miami, Wade was even more unselfish to stay.
He took even less money than James and Bosh in order to give the Heat more financial flexibility down the road. On top of that, Wade is 30 years old—that contract he signed in 2010 is probably the last big contract he will ever sign.
In year two of the Big Three Era, Wade also sacrificed more on the court than ever before.
Although Wade still had the capacity for a performance like the one he put forth in Game 6, he understood that on most nights, it was best for him not to handle the reins offensively, but rather give them to LeBron.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do in sports was to, in a sense, take a step back,” Wade said. “A lot of people don’t understand. They’ll say, ‘Why would you do that?’ To me, I want more success from winning. I don’t want another scoring title. I’m just trying to win.
As we all now know, Wade taking a step back was a complete success. LeBron put together one of the greatest postseasons in NBA history, averaging 30.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game while leading the Heat to an NBA championship.
Yet it was only made possible because of Wade—a top-five player in the NBA who sacrificed substantial personal success for team success.
While Wade's second championship holds a great deal of importance for his own ascension on the unofficial list of greatest players of all time, Wade wanted the title more for LeBron than himself.
Speaking about LeBron James, prior to the playoffs, Wade told the Palm Beach Post:
"To see him every day, and the things he does, this guy is an unbelievable talent, unbelievable ability. Obviously, I know him personally. I know what he wants, I know what's in his heart. So, yeah, I want it for him. I think I probably want it for him more than I want it for myself."
That's not surprising to hear, considering the type of player Wade is. He always puts his Heat teammates ahead of himself.
He considers LeBron and Haslem family, and that feeling is reciprocated. In today's sports world, which is often centered on personal success and legacies, that's a rarity.
That's a perfect teammate.
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