Over the past eight years, we have been witnesses to some of the most electrifying entertainment that the NBA has had to offer.
The Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade has captivated the NBA world from the start with his flashy style of play that features lightning-quick crossovers, incredible ball-handling skills, finesse layups, and powerful throw downs over the top of some of the league's top defensive players. He also won our hearts with his 2006 NBA Finals performance, when he led his team back from a 2-0 deficit to an eventual 4-2 win.
The best part about Wade and his unbelievable knack of playing the game? He's extremely humble and modest while doing so. He's not the type of player who will talk smack before, during, or after a game, and he's certainly not the type of player who could tear a franchise apart the same way some of these elite players do when they don't get their way.
He's as humble as you'll ever see from a player of his caliber, and it's a breath of fresh air to see that some players don't need to run their mouths to get the media's attention.
While Wade has performed the impossible game-in and game-out, it has proved costly to his body and his overall health. He's had to go through a number of surgeries over the past eight years and has missed over a year's worth of games that he could have played if not for the ailments that he has suffered from.
Soon to be 30 years old, Wade's going to need to relax a bit when it comes to the reckless abandon style that he currently plays at. His body won't be able to take as much damage before it regresses, and he'll need to take some measures if he wants to avoid that while still being a reliable part of the Heat franchise.
Here are five things that Wade could do to still be a reliable part of the team years from now.
You can follow John Friel and his ramblings on twitter @JohnFtheheatgod
Prior to the countless injuries that limited him during the '06'-'07 season and '07-'08 season, Dwyane Wade actually had one of the games deadliest mid-range shots.
It wasn't as lethal as say Steve Nash's or Ray Allen's, but it was a consistent enough jump shot so that defenders would have to take it seriously, rather than laying back and allowing Wade to take it.
It was such a huge advantage to a player like Wade because of his tendency to drive and the fact that he could rely on either for his offensive production. Being able to have a shot to go along with already being recognized as one of the game's best finishers made Wade into the player he is today.
Unfortunately, all that driving was too much for a young Wade to handle, and it cost him nearly a full year's worth of playing time over two combined seasons.
Wade was still scoring at a high rate, but he was limited when it came to driving—and especially shooting—due to all of the injuries he suffered to his upper body over the first three years of his career. He constantly hit the deck whenever he drove and all of that eventually took a toll on his shoulders, arm, and wrist, including a dislocated shoulder injury that was too much for Wade to handle.
If you look at Wade's shot now, you'll notice how drastically it's changed. There's hardly any arc on any of his shots—look at his free throws for reassurance and it's hardly consistent.
With no jump shot to rely on, Wade has to find most of his looks close to the rim while throwing his body around, colliding with players that are twice his size and putting his body at risk nearly every time he wants two points.
This isn't a lifestyle that Wade can get accustomed to.
At some time or another, he's going to have to learn to create a reliable jump shot that he can depend on during his later years when he's a step slower and his body can't take as much damage, much like Kobe Bryant has done over the past seasons. He recognized that he can't drive it as much and he now relies more on his jump shot or his post moves rather than driving and risking any more injuries.
Prior to this most recent campaign, the basketball life for Dwyane Wade has been the most difficult of his career.
He's had to overcome the debilitating injuries that could have greatly limited his career, and the loss of Shaquille O'Neal and other countless veterans that helped him along the way while having to put an entire franchise on his back for the past two seasons.
After dealing with those injuries that could have ended the career of any elite player, Wade then had to play more minutes than ever and had to do more than ever to lead his team to victories.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Heat's top contributors aside from Wade were Udonis Haslem, Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley. And you thought Kobe Bryant had a hard time playing with Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm, and Kwame Brown?
Wade had shouldered that load for two years, with aging veterans trudging their way up and down the court and inconsistent rookies that couldn't make their minds up if they wanted to play good or bad on a specific night, and he still led those teams to the post season with at least 43 wins.
The Heat's additions of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller was the greatest thing that could have happened to Wade and his health because now he can allow his teammates to actually do some of the heavy lifting for once.
We know that Wade is still capable of moving mountains and leading a team to the postseason, but now he can relax and allow his teammates to do the talking for him.
If Wade wants to take it easy one night and not kill himself with his incessant driving, he can get away with it for the first time since 2006. That's the benefit of having two of the game's top players and one of the league's top sharpshooters.
I understand that Miller wasn't exactly the top sharpshooter last year, but let's allow a shooter to get his thumbs back, shall we?
As I've previously stated, Dwyane Wade has based his career on his incessant mindset of driving and getting the highest percentage shots he could possibly get.
While this is effective, flashy, and entertaining, it's not a style of play you can always rely on, especially when you're Wade and this is pretty much your standard of living. At 29 years old, Wade has gone through a number of surgeries and a countless amount of ailments that have limited his play since 2007, including two 51-game seasons.
Those injuries were caused by Wade's driving and the way he played the game every time he stepped out on the court. He makes his standard of living by driving with reckless abandon towards the basket, where he would collide with power forwards and centers that would have upwards of seven inches on him, as well as at least 50 pounds. When you're 6'4", 220 pounds, you're going to get your fair share of bruises and injuries when you do this a number of times in every single game.
This is why I insist Wade, if you're reading Dwyane, then please give me a contract. I promise I'll run the point better than Mario Chalmers and learn how to either get his jump shot or just to straight up restrict the amount of driving that he plans on doing in the future. He's going to be an old 30 by the start of next season and his body can only take so much more before it regresses.
Wade's still playing the same way he was back when he was younger and has surprisingly stayed out of injury trouble over the past three seasons. However, it will eventually catch up to Wade if he does persist with his driving and continually puts his body at risk.
It's not a healthy lifestyle and Wade's either going have to pass more, learn how to take jump shots, or just restrict the drives that involve going against one or more players in the opposing team's front court.
The 2010-'11 season for the Miami Heat turned out to be more than the cakewalk we expected it to be.
It turns out that throwing three superstars in the same starting lineup and telling them to do whatever they want wasn't exactly the best idea the organization had in mind at the start. The players needed to become aware of each others' tendencies, learn how to play off the ball, and most of all, learn how to play with teammates that also can do their fair share of scoring as well.
It became increasingly more difficult when they lost their two top contributors that weren't members of the big three. All of these aspects added up and it caused the big three to shoulder the load and play more minutes than they originally anticipated.
Even though the team possessed all of these outstanding scorers, the team still needed them on the floor because of the lack of help from the supporting cast.
That should change this season now that the team will have a healthy Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem returning as well as some possible help from free agency.
With that being said, all of the help the team is set to receive should allow all of the members of the big three to play less minutes.
Dwyane Wade actually averaged more minutes per game this past season than he did in '09-'10 when his number two man was Michael Beasley. When you have LeBron James and Chris Bosh as your teammates, playing 37 minutes per game should become a thing of the past.
It should be a thing of the past next season once the big three get some assistance from their formerly injured sidekicks and the free agents that could jump on board. Wade is going to need breaks more than anyone so that he may rest during the regular season and gear up in time for the postseason, where his presence will truly be needed.
At some time or another, the man you see in the picture is going to be the leader of the Miami Heat.
As one of Dwyane Wade's largest supporters, it's best that I tell all of Wade's supporters that they're going to have to come to terms with this and face the facts that Dwyane is getting older, while LeBron James is still the league's top athlete and will be 26 years old at the start of next season, if it ever decides to start.
This isn't something that will occur in the next two seasons, but it will once Wade is unable to drive and score as prolifically.
By the time Wade is 32 years old, James will only be 28 and just entering his prime. By then, James might have already developed a consistent jumper, won a few titles to boost his confidence, and maybe even developed a post game if he's that committed to winning and improving his game.
Having James take over the scoring load rather than Wade has already been practiced and it proved to be a good move, as the Heat still finished the season 58-24 and made it within two games of an NBA championship in only their first season together. James has proven over the past seven seasons with Cleveland that he can lead his team to victory and can take over when called upon.
With Wade and Bosh on his side, James has spent time alternating scoring duties with his two superstar teammates. If the Miami Heat want Dwyane Wade to continue playing at the high rate they need him to perform at, they're going to need James and Bosh to lead the charge more frequently during the regular season. I say the regular season because the postseason is Wade's time, and he's shown us time and time again that he is the clear leader of this team during late-game situations.
If the organization wants to see postseason success and a healthy Dwyane Wade to perform during that time, they're going to need to ask upon his teammates to do some of the lifting momentarily.