PHILADELPHIA — Thirty-two isn't typically a milestone birthday, but Dwyane Wade hasn't had a typical life. So, many people—from fans to business associates to family to teammates—spent some of Friday constructing Instagram collages or leaving messages to let him know how much he means to them.
"Everybody has reached out," Wade said, prior to Miami's easy 101-86 win against the 76ers. "It's good to see that people don't forget about you sometimes."
"When I smiled the most today was when my oldest son called me," Wade said. "And said, 'Damn, you're getting old.'"
It has sped by, for sure, since Wade was "scared as who knows what" to face one of his athletic idols, Allen Iverson, in this very building on Oct. 28, 2003. Wade scored 18 points that night, and has scored 17,001 since, including eight in a foul-plagued performance Friday. Over that time, and even in spite of a spate of recent injuries, he has elevated himself into elite historical company.
So where does he think he stands, during his 11th season, on the verge of his 10th All-Star appearance, and positioned to compete for a fourth championship?
That was the question Bleacher Report posed late Friday, as he sat in front of his stall in the visiting locker room of the Wells Fargo Center.
Surely, he's carefully considered it, in light of his admitted attention to his legacy.
"No, I haven't yet, no," Wade said. "No, just to be known for whatever I did in the game. Obviously, the body of work that I put in early in my career, for the first eight years or so, that body of work was good enough to put me in the conversation with 'blank' 2-guards. But wherever it lands me, it lands me at the end of the day. I'm not going to lose no sleep over someone saying I'm four, not five, I'm seven, not eight. Not really."
Part of the conundrum is that there are few close comparisons, few players of his height who have played a similar style.
"Yeah, there ain't," Wade said. "People always asked me who I modeled my game after. Obviously, (Michael) Jordan was the one from the standpoint of talent, but I never looked to see (anybody) who played like me, or I played like them. You can see some guys that come now, you can see their games, like Bradley Beal, you can see them and say he's got a Ray Allen type of game."
Beal, in his second season for Washington, can stroke it from the outside and is still developing other aspects of his repertoire.
"There was not really a guy when I came in, that they saw me, and said I play like him," Wade said. "Not close to the same height, etc. So, yeah. But I think that's the cool thing. In a sense, I will have my own space, as that 2-guard. As someone who is 6'3", 6'4" on a good day, and I've done what I was able to do. I think it will be my own space, in a sense."
But ever since he played point guard as a rookie, he's played "shooting" guard, and he'll be evaluated against others who've been granted a similar designation, even if they had dissimilar styles. It is generally understood that the 6'6" Jordan was the top 2-guard of all time, with the 6'6" Kobe Bryant widely deemed the closest to Jordan among Wade's contemporaries.
But what about the others throughout history?
After Wade addressed the media throng about Friday's win, I handed him my phone, with a list of some of the career statistics and retirement ages of five Hall of Famers who primarily played 2-guard (Jerry West, Clyde Drexler, Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller and Joe Dumars), as well as one (Mitch Richmond) who seems destined for induction in an upcoming year.
Here's roughly what he saw on the screen, which didn't account for defensive impact, a Wade strength, or three-point accuracy, a Wade weakness:
- West (last game, age 35): 932 games, 25,192 points, 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 47.4%
- Drexler (last game, age 35): 1,086 games, 22,195 points, 20.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 47.2%
- Miller (last game, age 39): 1,389 games, 25,279 points, 18.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 43.7%
- Iverson (last game, age 34): 914 games, 24,368 points, 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.2 APG, 42.5%
- Richmond (last game, age 36): 976 games, 20,497 points, 21.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 45.5%
- Dumars (last game, age 35) 1,018 games, 16,401 points 16.1 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 46.0%
- Wade (still playing, age 32): 695 games, 17,019 points, 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 49.0%
Wade's initial reaction?
"Whoa, West had some numbers, didn't he?" he said. "Wow."
He scanned the screen again.
"That's a pretty good list, man," Wade said.
Then he saw something that surprised him: His scoring average, which has suffered some as he's made way for James and Chris Bosh the past three years.
"I'm still at 24?!" Wade said. "Wow. I'm hanging on. I'm hanging on right now."
"What?" James, icing his feet, asked from two lockers over.
"My career average," Wade replied. "I'm at 24-and-a-half. I'm hanging on."
Wade noticed something else, before he handed the phone to James: That everyone on the list retired at around age 35.
Well, Miller excluded.
"Yeah, but he was crazy," Wade said, paying a compliment.
And, of course, right to Wade's right was another freak of nature, a guy still going—if struggling of late—at age 38.
Allen belongs on that elite list also, having played 1,262 games and scored 24,130 points, while averaging 19.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists, on 45.2 percent shooting.
It is unlikely that Wade will approach Allen's longevity or scoring total, especially while taking off so many regular season games, having already ruled himself out of Saturday in Charlotte, which will be a 10th absence in 40 Heat games this season. But even if Wade's averages slip as his age increases and his role shrinks—as has been the case for Allen—he still figures to finish with even more accolades. Already, he has three championships, three more than Iverson or Miller, two more than West or Drexler or Richmond (who was a benchwarmer when the Lakers won), one more than Dumars. He's halfway to Jordan (six) and might track down the older Bryant (five).
And, as he noted, he's created his own space.
Now he sees few, if any, young players following all that closely in his Eurosteps.
"I don't see someone, and I'll be like, man, (he's like me)," Wade said. "I see certain things. But not yet, I haven't seen anybody. The player I looked at who attacked like I did early, was D-Rose and (Russell) Westbrook, like reckless attacking."
Those two are point guards now.
Wade, while wearing No. 3, has long played the 2.
He's still playing it as few ever have, even at what Zaire would consider the advanced age of 32.