It’s the dog days of the NBA offseason, and I’m feeling nostalgic.
With no new footage of the NBA, the casual NBA fan is forced to rely on past performances to revel in the talent that’s possessed by their favorite performers.
Lately, watching vintage Dwyane Wade videos has caught my eye. In three years, LeBron James has already made many forget that this was Wade’s team for seven years, through the bad and the good.
He was a star when his team was 15-67 and he was one when he was leading his team to their first championship in franchise history. Unfortunately, he has constantly been underrated, cast into the shadows of supposedly superior players in Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Even in his historic 2008-’09 season where he led the league in scoring at 30.1 points per game and took his team from a 15-67 cellar dweller to a 43-39 five-seed in the span of two seasons, Wade only finished third in MVP voting, left in the shadows of the MVPuppets (remember them?).
It was the quintessential phoenix story. A person is at the dimmest point in their life, in Wade’s case it was going through a slew of surgeries that limited him to 51 games apiece in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, and miraculously rises from the ashes to become a phoenix.
Between 2008 and 2010, Wade would put together some of the greatest individual performances. Not only did he lead a roster laden with aged veterans and inexperienced rookies and sophomores, but he also won his first Gold Medal as Team USA’s leading scorer.
Even more impressive was his patience throughout the two-year window of get-out-of-my-way ball. Starting in a lineup with a decrepit Jermaine O’Neal, Quentin Richardson and a blazed-out-of-his-head Michael Beasley, Wade consistently led the Heat to victories and would even have some of his most memorable games in blowout losses.
Patience paid off obviously. Proving your worth as someone who can tolerate ineptitude and inexperience for as long as Wade did deserves the eventual satisfaction of having competence and reliance.
It’s why you never count Wade out. Because you’ll end up looking really stupid if you do so.
Even today, after two championships as LeBron’s number two guy, Wade is still constantly being written off. Critics will mention his career-low postseason numbers, but won’t bring up how he dropped 32 points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Or how he had 23 points and 10 assists in Game 7. Or the 21 points and 9 rebounds in Miami’s Game 7 win over Indiana. Or his 18 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the Heat’s closeout win over Chicago.
No credit is given to the unbelievable defenses of Indiana or Chicago. Wade having an off game means that his body is betraying him and he clearly doesn’t have it in him anymore.
Let’s just put it like this: 95 percent of the league’s teams would love to have someone who can average 20 points on 48 percent shooting in the NBA Finals. For Wade this is somehow a sign of deterioration.
Before I work myself into a frenzy over the absolute negligence of media members fishing for another story of a superstar’s demise, let’s take a walk down memory lane with the five best games of Dwyane Wade’s career.
5. Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. NOBODY.
Dwyane Wade had a vendetta against the New York Knicks in the 2009-10 season, and it can all be traced back to one flailing, inadvertent elbow from Danilo Gallinari.
Early in the fourth quarter of a contest the Knicks seemingly had complete control over, Wade swiped at Gallinari only to be met with an elbow to the lip that would draw blood.
This was a poor move on Gallinari’s part, and it was only exacerbated by Al Harrington steamrolling Wade only a few seconds later on a fastbreak. At the next timeout, Wade is visibly angry and whipping his towel at the floor in disgust as he gets treated for his still freshly cut lip.
At this point, the Knicks were up 103-88 with 8:36 remaining. The remaining 8:36 of this contest would be a vengeance-fueled demolition of the entire Knicks franchise by a seething Wade.
Here’s how the Heat’s scoring went over the final 8:31: Wade 2-pt shot at rim and free throw, D-Wade 3-pointer, J. O’Neal 2-pt jumper, M. Chalmers 2-pt shot at rim, D-Wade 3-pointer, D-Wade 2 free throws, D-Wade 2-pt jumper, D-Wade 2 free throws, J. O’Neal 2-pt jumper, D-Wade 2-pt shot at rim and free throw, U. Haslem 2-pt jumper, D-Wade 2-pt jumper, D-Wade 2-pt shot at rim, U.Haslem 2 free throws.
Wade scored 24 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter, all of them coming in the final 9 minutes, 26 seconds and the Heat pulled out a miraculous 120-115 victory that featured the team with a 37-17 advantage in the final frame. Overall, he ended up shooting 16-of-29, 2-of-3 from three, 12-of-12 from the line, and wound up with 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 blocks in 41 minutes.
Two months from then, Wade would set some personal history against the very same Knicks team that had pushed his patience to the edge.
4. The Orlando Magic dominate the Heat, nobody cares/notices.
This contest was essentially the epitome of Miami Heat basketball from 2008 to 2010: Dwyane Wade doing everything, his teammates doing nothing, and Wade making you forget that the team was getting blown out by a superior opponent.
Miami hardly stood a chance against an Orlando Magic team that would end up making the NBA Finals later on that season. In fact, it was over from the start as Orlando built up a 15-point lead after the first quarter and an 18-point lead going into the half.
But the score was hardly the topic of conversation. Because while Orlando was methodically building a lead through their three-point attack, Wade was putting on a one-man-show that featured him scoring 27 points by the end of the second quarter, capped off by a driving dunk over Rashard Lewis to end the half.
The Magic would maintain control throughout, but Wade’s 44, after scoring 17 in the third, going into the fourth kept fans on the edge of their seats in hopes that they would get to see the first 50-point game of Wade’s career.
With 3:55 left and the Magic already up 21, Wade would hit an elbow jumper that would give him 50 for the night.
Overall, he outscored everyone else on his team by one point. He finished the night shooting 17-of-30, 2-of-7 from three and 14-of-15 from the foul line, while also contributing 5 rebounds and 5 assists in only 37 minutes, 17 seconds of playing time.
3. You mad, Brad Miller?
I know I wasn’t the only to wake up their entire house because of the conclusion of this game.
Deep into the night and the Miami Heat are locked in a contest with the rival Chicago Bulls. While they’re being supported by Ben Gordon making improbable shot after improbable shot, the Heat is being supported by the endurance of Wade, who was the only player on his team to score over 20 points in a game where Miami would score 130.
With the Bulls in possession in a tie game where they could take the last shot, Wade showcases his expertise on both sides of the court. He first denies the entry pass to the original intended target in Derrick Rose and the ball winds up in the hands of John Salmons.
Miami appeared to be in a precarious position as Salmons was in a mismatch and being defended by the slower Haslem. However, on an attempted spin move, Wade would cheat off of Rose and rip Salmons, prompting a frantic fastbreak in the final five seconds.
Without any time to set up, Dwyane leans back and runs into a three-pointer that hits nothing but net, enabling a dejected Brad Miller to pout and curse on the sideline.
Wade rushes over to the scorers table, is somehow able to have the energy to climb on top of it after playing nearly 50 minutes in a double-overtime game, faces the remaining fans that stuck it out and emits the most memorable quote to come out of any Heat player in franchise history: “This is my house.”
Yes it is, Dwyane. Yes it is.
Oh, and he also hit the three-pointer that sent the game to overtime. He finished the night shooting an incredible 71 percent on 21 field-goal attempts, 83 percent on 6 three-point attempts and 13-of-18 from the foul line to go along with 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks.
2. LEAVE NEW YORK ALONE, DWYANE!
Or not. After suffering through a 61-point beating from Kobe Bryant, a ridiculous triple-double from LeBron James and Dwyane’s 24-point fourth quarter within a few weeks of each other, the Knicks were just looking to end their season without enabling anymore historic performances.
Dwyane Wade never forgets, and it’s why he had two of his best games of the season against the same Knicks club that assaulted him throughout their previous meeting.
Going against an uninspired Knicks team that was already well out of the playoffs, Wade would take advantage of New York’s careless and effortless defense, dissecting lanes on his way to layups and shooting over the top of the defense once the paint became packed.
Nearly replicating the fourth quarter he had against New York in their previous contest, Wade dropped 23 points in the third quarter in a game that was still tight going into the fourth. Surprisingly, it would be Michael Beasley putting in the work in the fourth, scoring 11 in the final frame, to give Miami a 25-14 fourth quarter advantage that would lead to a 122-105 victory.
Wade. however, wasn’t finished in that fourth. He had a staggering 50 points going into the fourth and would break the career-high he set only a few weeks prior against Orlando with a free throw with 8:29 left.
Dwyane would score his 55th point on a drive with 5:31 left. By that point, Miami was already up 13. He’d take one more three-pointer and get pulled with 1:06 left.
The 55 points is still a career-high that will most likely never be touched. He wound up shooting 19-of-30 overall, 6-of-12 from three, 11-of-13 from the foul line to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Kudos to the New York Knicks franchise for providing the Heat franchise with so many great memories over the past few years. We’re still not even after that hand-of-god Allan Houston shot, though.
at Philadelphia (OT L): 48 points (18-33, 2-3, 10-13), 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal in 49 minutes
1. Shipping off to Boston
There’s some bias in this decision, so let me explain.
This was the last time we saw Dwyane Wade sans LeBron James and Chris Bosh in postseason form and tearing apart an opponent. It rekindled memories of the 2006 NBA Finals Wade and it would be one of the final times where Dwyane, not LeBron, was in the playoff spotlight for Miami.
The hardware Miami has received as a result is great, but those games where Wade just went bananas and started making everything were the most fun the fanbase ever had to that point.
His 46-point explosion in a seemingly meaningless game against the Boston Celtics should resonate in the mind of every Heat fan; because that was the last time we were all innocent and had no idea that we’d turn into the cockiest, most arrogant fans in sports.
Not to say I don’t like being cocky and arrogant. It’s definitely a lot more rewarding in the end. But you can’t not say you miss those days where Wade would be unstoppable going to the hoop, the defense would react and shut down the paint, and then Dwyane would uncharacteristically make a bunch of three-pointers.
Game 4 against Boston was a culmination of all of that. Miami was down 3-0 in the series after Paul Pierce’s game-winner, but there was still the feeling that the Heat could pull off something special.
I don’t mean that they were going to come back, but you felt that they weren’t going to go out that easy, even against a Celtics team that would make it all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Wade dropped a cool 14 in the first in what was a hot start for the Heat that had the team up by 13 after the first frame. However, Boston would cut the lead to six going into the half, with Wade scoring only two points in the second quarter.
Boston would use a 34-22 advantage to take a lead going into the fourth, but not before Wade unleashed a towering slam over the top of Kevin Garnett and scoring 11 points.
The fuse was lit and Wade, playing the role of dynamite, exploded in the fourth.
Like clockwork, Wade went to work when the game mattered most. He single-handily outscored the entire Celtics team in the fourth, scoring 19 to Boston’s 15, initiated by Wade scoring on Miami’s first three possessions and scoring 14 of his 19 fourth-quarter points within the first four minutes of the fourth.
In that span, Wade hit three three-pointers. The final of those three prompted Wade to holding his hand out and yelling at it as he ran downcourt, even questioning himself on how he is capable of such feats.
Wade would make one more three-pointer to increase Miami’s lead to 11 with 6:12 left and that would be all she wrote as the Heat avoid the sweep thanks in part to Dwyane, once again, doing everything in his power to will out a victory.
I constructed this article as a means to remind us all of just who Dwyane Wade was before he was accompanied by two All-Stars in LeBron and CB. To remind us that at some point, winning wasn’t always everything and it was a pleasure just to sit back and watch a single talented individual pour his heart out game-in and game-out.
Not to say we don’t get that now with LeBron. It’s just different with Wade because of his ties to the city and the fact that he’s one of the few lone draft picks on Miami to actually make a name for themselves with the franchise.
Seven years of unmatched, devoted, loyal and ambitious basketball has not been forgotten, Dwyane.
He’ll know that when 20,000 people are giving him a ten-minute standing ovation when the number 3 is lifted to the rafters, immortalized with the mammoth jerseys of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway and the numerous championship banners he helped bring to a city that was not supposed to have basketball survive in.
Let the rest of the world talk. Miami stands by Dwyane Wade through the good and the bad, just as he did for us years before.