Everyone has heard it before. The NBA is a super-star driven league. In essence, the franchise players are the one's in the drivers seat. This is true, to an extent. Take a game I watched in mid-March for example.
Two division rivals, the Bobcats and the Heat. The game plods along with little defense and poor shot selection. Only three players on the floor are All-Stars (Dwyane Wade, Gerald Wallace, and Stephen Jackson). Finally, with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the action picks up. It essentially becomes of a game of two versus one, as Wade and the Wallace/Jackson combination trade positions, with a few players shooting canceling out free-throws interspersed in the action.
The game ultimately comes down to one possession for the Heat. They give the ball to Wade who is swarmed by three defenders. He fakes a drive into the lane, steps back to the three-point line, and throws up a prayer, which ultimately falls short.
This meaningless game in a schedule that is merely a bloated cash cow milking every lost drop is the truest microcosm of the National Basketball Association's regular season.
There is a reason I emphasize regular season, is because it doesn't matter. The postseason, however, is entirely different. Look at the past two teams that have won the NBA title. Boston is obviously emphasizes a team oriented system, and surprisingly, so do the Lakers.
For all of the justified drooling over Kobe Bryant, the man nearly pulled off a John Starks like performance in Game Seven going 7-25 from the field. Yet, all was forgotten in the victory celebration, as the Mamba pulls within one title of his airness. In short, the Lakers one in spite of their star player.
For those who say I am being short-sighted. Look at the championship teams going forward from the year 2000.
The Lakers three-peat was driven by by two superstars, but without shots from teammates Robert Horry and Derrick Fisher the Lakers maybe only win one.
The Spurs team that won titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007 were led by Tim Duncan. Yet, Duncan managed to share the scoring load with David Robinson, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker.
In 2004, the Lakers were defeated by a highly organized team strategy in the Detroit Pistons, who had no definitive leading scorer or superstar.
The only team since the turn of the century to win the title with just one superstar, and place the title firmly on one players shoulders, was the 2006 Miami Heat.
For those who say that Wade had another superstar teammate in Shaquille O'Neal, they are mistaken. O'Neal only averaged 13 points per game and 10 rebounds per game in the Finals, and was a shell of his former self in the paint.
This brings us to Dwyane Wade. Since the moment the the Cavaliers season-ending series loss to the Celtics, ESPN and many other sports media outlets have had nearly 24 hour coverage on LeBron James and why his decisions will affect the future of the NBA. My question is why?
There is not doubting James talents. His physical skills as well as plays are dynamic, and often beyond the realms of reality. Yet, like Wade, LeBron has taken a young Cavs team to the Finals. Unlike Wade, however, he was unable to dominate the series, and was swept out of the Finals by a better team. Since 2005, James has failed to lead his team to the Finals, falling to the Celtics twice and the Magic once in the past three seasons.
The answer to LeBron's failures and Wade's success ultimately lies with the issue of identity. Wade is a natural scorer who understands his role on the team and more importantly within the offense. Wade was not a starter on the United States Olympic team, yet was the teams leading scorer off the bench.
LeBron, on the other hand, faces an identity crisis. Is he the primary scorer or the primary facilitator? The answer, at least so far, is that James has tried to be both, and while he may excel at each it is ultimately causing disruption for the team and for himself.
Wade has (and will most likely again) play for a Hall of Fame coach in Pat Riley. He has always been the unquestioned primary scoring option on his team. He has even succeeded with lesser talent in Miami, something LeBron has failed to do in Cleveland. He has all ready nearly single-handedly won a championship. Despite all of the free-agency rumors, he has remained loyal to the city and franchise that has drafted him. He has played through injuries, horrible teammates, and bad coaches (see Van Gundy, Stan). And through it all, he has won a title.
Forget that Miami is great city to live in, or that the Heat have the most cap-room available to bring in two max players and solid role players. Forget the fact that Wade has talked to a majority of the free-agents available, and been open about all possibilities. Forget that Riley will most likely return to the bench next season.
Most importantly, forget about LeBron James. This is not a condemnation of James. He is a phenomenal talent and player. The real issue is hype. Everybody is waiting for LeBron to arrive as a champion. The truth is, Wade is all ready there. He's climbed the mountain.
Now, knowing what we know about teams winning the Finals. Now who would you rather play with: a proven winner and primary scorer who knows his role on the team, system, and with his coach, or a gifted talent who is confused about his role, and faces an uncertain relationship with a new coach?
Chris Bosh has all but stated that his free-agent partner of choice would be LeBron James.
My question is this: Why not Dwyane Wade?