Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How Will Hoops History View D-Wade?

Before the Heat stormed back from a 27-point deficit to beat the Cavs tonight, I had begun writing a "How Will the Heat Break the Record?" post. Like many others, I figured Miami would roll through at least the next few games before dialing it up a notch to pass the record for longest winning streak, held by the 1971-72 Lakers. The streak's still in play, but the close win over Cleveland shows just how difficult it's going to be.

However, I'm no longer going to focus on Miami's chances to break the record, which others have broken down more extensively. Instead, I concerned myself with one reason I think the Heat will pass Jerry West and Co.'s 33-game winning streak. Here's what I had written:

D-Wade's Efficiency
For a little while after LeBron signed with the Heat, I actually clung to the idea that Wade was the better player, stats be damned. It was sort of a Russell vs. Chamberlain argument. Wade had won a Finals MVP. LeBron had just sulked off the court after a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe LeBron put up video-game stats, but Wade knew how to lead a team to a championship. I also had fond memories of Wade carrying a vanilla Marquette team to the 2003 Final Four.

Wade (left) with Coach Tom Crean and Travis Diener, the team's second-best player. 
Now, obviously, LeBron has proved himself superior to Wade in every facet of the game besides giving himself horrible nicknames ("WOW -- Way of Wade" -- is just as conceited but much less catchy than "King James.") But LeBron's incredible season has overshadowed Wade's highly effective play during the 23-game winning streak. At one point, Wade scored 20 points and shot at least 50 percent during 12 of 13 games. He is shooting 52.4% from the floor for the season. WOW, indeed. However corny it is, the nickname is correct.  

Wade has had a terrific year, a career resurgence of sorts. As has happened this season, though, is he doomed to be thoroughly overshadowed by LeBron for the rest of his career?

About midway through his first season in Miami, LeBron pretty clearly established himself as a better player than Wade. Still, as the Heat lost to Dallas in that year's Finals, I couldn't watch LeBron's fourth-quarter meltdowns without feeling a little bad for Wade. Just a few years before, the Finals spotlight had been his and he had seized it completely.

Now, it's as if Wade is an afterthought even though he's -- at worst -- one of the top 10 players in the NBA. This, at a time when the league is enjoying a historic talent boon. Will basketball history simply view Wade as his generation's James Worthy or Scottie Pippen, a guy that won a bunch of championships playing second fiddle to a Top-10 Alltime player?

I wonder if D-Wade ever wishes he could have had another chance at being a Finals MVP. Or if he should have just battled against LeBron for a decade, a la Bird vs. Magic. Does Wade wonder whether he could have become one of those Top-10 Alltimers? Maybe it doesn't matter to him and he's just happy to be part of a historically great team while playing with his buddies. But if Wade ever thinks about any of those things, I'm sure he shakes his head and also thinks, "Wow..."

2 comments:

  1. It seems like a fine line - because the alternative could be on the flip side of playing second fiddle, something that hits close to home in Carmelo and Patrick Ewing:

    http://espn.go.com/new-york/nba/story/_/id/9077737/carmelo-anthony-new-york-knicks-lot-patrick-ewings

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  2. If it's one or the other, Wade takes the championships as second-best on the team, right?

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