I wrote this piece a few years back when Dwyane Wade's first converse shoe came out. I remember one of the print ads for his first kicks had the appropo tagline "Fall Seven Times, Stand up Eight." While I'm all wrapped up in the excitement of the Nuggets/Lakers series, hoping Denver pulls it out and goes on to win their first title it got me nostalgic for when Miami was all that and a bag of chips in 2006. If you don't remember that time, this should get you back in the right headspace:
Magic, Michael, Shaq…Dwyane. The Torch has been Passed. Prepare for Fireworks
What happens when you toss a fat stick of dynamite into a "Diesel" powered furnace? Answer: You get the most explosive force in basketball. Dwyane Wade and his partner in swish, Shaquille O'Neal, blow up the hardcourt.
Wade slices through defenses like a samurai sword in a Tarantino movie—he can break through a double or a triple team on a whim, sink one from mid-range or drive hard to the basket and rattle the rim. When he does run up against a wall of defenders who prevent him from throwing down a spectacular slam Wade has a knack for taking contact and still finding a way to get the ball to drop through the bucket.
"I play with the best player in the world in Dwyane Wade," said Shaq after the dynamic duo combined for 60 points (36 of those courteousy of D-Wade) in game three of last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
It's always hot in Miami but this year the heat has been turned way up as GM Pat Riley has stoked Wade's supporting cast with veteran firebrands. The largest multi-player deal in NBA history went down this offseason sending thirteen players packing their bags and shaking up the rosters of the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets, Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat.
In the aftermath of the whopper of an address swap and following a few savvy additional acquisitions, Miami emerged as a Goliath adding Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Gary Payton, and Alonzo Mourning as auxiliary firepower to fuel the Wade and Shaq attack. Critics have called this awesome assemblage of simmering talent a recipe for combustion but these players want to win a championship badly and they're comfortable with the roles they've been asked to play in order to get the job done.
"I think it is going to work… It's wrong to say there are too many stars and not enough basketballs," coach Stan Van Gundy commented in the Washington Post
Gundy's counting on Wade to provide the leadership on and off the court that will bring it all together.
It's amazing how huge Dwyane Wade has gotten since the Marquette guard was drafted fifth overall in 2003 to little fanfare. At the time Wade was overshadowed by the hype machine surrounding earlier picks LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Darko Milicic, and Chris Bosh.
Back then his name cache was on par with Dwayne Wayne, the character from the Cosby Show spinoff "A Different World" who made flip-up sunglasses cool in the early 90s. It was the same old story for Wade who was used to being a blip on the radar.
It's been that way since high school where he came in seventh in voting for the state of Illinois' Mr. Basketball Award.
"I always wanted people to know I was a good basketball player, but I didn't get the recognition," Wade told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Vindication is sweet. Wade is the only pick from this much ballyhooed draft class to lead his team to playoff success.
His explosive game powered the Heat's playoff run last year taking Miami one game shy of a berth in the NBA finals. They were knocking on heaven's door only to meltdown in game seven of the Eastern Conference final 88-82.
Wade doesn't enjoy watching tape of the game that slipped away. He feels responsible for the loss.
Wade fanned on his final five shots including a 22-foot brick that bounced off the backboard and out of bounds with 1:17 left to go and the Heat trailing 80-79. But give the guy a break. He was playing hurt, hampered with a bruised rib muscle.
"God had a gift for me with the ability he gave me to do things on the court, so when something goes wrong, I put it on myself that I didn't go out there and put the effort forth," Wade told Sports Illustrated.
You must fail before you can succeed and tasting the agony of defeat on the doorstep to the Finals has bolstered Wade's desire to further hone his skills and take his game up a notch. Six months from now he plans to win Miami their first championship.
Since his star has risen so fast, Wade will also have to contend with the distractions that come with being bounced from the B-list to the A-list. In the past calendar year alone he won the ESPY for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year, became the face of EA Sports NBA Live 2006 video game, strutted down the catwalk for Sean John, and was named one of Peoples' 50 most beautiful people.
Wade is flush with endorsements but the release of "The Wade," his signature shoe from Converse puts Dwyane in the rarified heel space of the NBA elite following in the footsteps of luminaries like Julius Irving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and his airness Michael Jordan. The sleek black-and-red kick (also available in blue and gold, the colours of Wade's alma mater Marquette University) features a biomechanical Foot Strike Management system specifically designed to keep feet comfy during extreme cuts on the court.
"Not too many people get one, so to be one of the players, not only in the league today, but in the league period, to have his own shoe at a young age, feels great to me. So it's an honor," says Wade.
The savvy young phenomenon is conscious of his own burgeoning brand and is already worried about overexposure.
"I've been everywhere, so hopefully people don't get tired of me yet because I've still got some more stuff to come out," he joked at a recent press conference.
Don't worry Wade, your flight has just begun.
The WORD ON WADE
"We're going to make Dwyane Wade the first NBA male supermodel," –Sean "Diddy" Combs
"He goes to the basket, he does it all. He's unselfish. He's special. He's just going to get better and better, 'cause that's what he's about" --Larry Brown
"He knows how he got here. He knows why all these things are coming at him, because he's worked and he's cared about winning and about being a competitor. As long as he keeps it real that way, he'll be able to handle all the other stuff." --Pat Riley
"He's just not a guy who jumps around thumping his chest. But I think where his humility really helps him is that he's still looking to get better" –Stan Van Gundy
"Dwyane's injury was a huge blow because Dwyane is the Heat's leading scorer and humblest human being and People magazine's Most Beautiful Person and pilot of the team plane. Dwyane also invented penicillin, correctly identified 'Deep Throat' four months ago and is currently batting .438 for the Marlins. He is a god in South Florida. Many chickens have died in his name." – Miami Herald syndicated columnist Dave Barry riffing on the impact of a Wade playoff injury.