Dwyane Wade will go down as one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. His impact on the game since his arrival in the NBA back in 2003 will never be forgotten. Wade was known for his “clutch genes” as he always seemed to close out games in big spots when his team needed him most. During the 2006 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat faced a 0-2 deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Needing to turn the tide, Wade put the team on his back and lead the Heat to four straight wins behind #3’s stellar four-game run of 42, 36, 43, and 36 points.
Winning the NBA Finals in ’06 was an amazing accomplishment, but it may not be his crowning achievement. Wade did something that changed the landscape of the NBA. One player, in particular, cannot thank Wade enough for what he did just a few short years ago.
Dwyane Wade helped LeBron James become a champion.
At the end of the 2009-2010 NBA season, LeBron James was at a crossroads in his career. James was the best player in the league. The numbers supported that as “The King” was coming off a season of 29.7 points, 8.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds. However, the supporting cast in Cleveland was almost nonexistent. Mo Williams, Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, and an aging Shaquille O’Neal were arguably the best players around James that season. Not surprisingly, James and the Cavaliers were bounced from the playoffs in the second round. James did lead Cleveland to the NBA Finals in 2007, but the Spurs were the superior team and made quick work of the Cavs. The comparisons to Michael Jordan started to become lopsided in Jordan’s favor because James did not have that elusive championship. The pressure was on. LeBron knew one thing and one thing only: It was time to win a championship.
In Miami, Wade was in the prime of his career. “Flash” was two years removed from leading the league in scoring with 30.2 points per game. In the 2010 playoffs, Wade averaged 33.2 points per game, but the Heat were bounced out of the playoffs in five games. Wade could’ve gone on with his career as “the guy” in Miami. He still would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Instead, Wade recruited LeBron and Chris Bosh to travel down to Miami to team up and create “The Big Three.” All three players took less money to come to Miami and form this super team. Players regularly leave teams to become the top dog (Kyrie Irving comes to mind). Wade did the opposite. He invited two of the top players in the game to come to his town and join the team because he knew it was for the best. However, Wade’s biggest act of unselfishness would come a year later.
Skip ahead to the 2011-2012 season. The Heat were coming off of a disappointing loss in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron still could not get over the hump and win a championship. He needed one to add to his legacy and silence the critics who said he could not win the “big one.” This is where D-Wade did the unthinkable.
Wade took a step back.
Wade was still at the top of his game in the prime of his career. He averaged over 25 points per game in that first season with LeBron as a teammate. However, Wade realized that for the team to succeed, he needed to take a step back and let LeBron become the top guy. That’s not an easy pill to swallow for an all-star talent to play second fiddle. Wade lead his team to a championship before, which is something LeBron had not done yet. Miami was Wade’s city, and yet he unselfishly avoided conflict and told LeBron that it was his time to take over. Wade was an unbelievable player, but he was not LeBron, and he knew that. For the good of the team, he let LeBron take the keys and lead the way as Wade happily became his sidekick.
The Heat ended up playing in four straight finals, winning two consecutive championships in the middle of that run. Because of Wade’s ability to do what was best for the team, both he and LeBron added multiple championships to their legacy. Looking back, asking the returning player to step back on his own team and make way for the prized free agent was unheard of, but Wade comes from a different breed. Wade’s selflessness should not go unnoticed. It is a decision that I will never forget.
Dwyane Wade helped LeBron James become a champion and changed the face of the NBA.