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2012 NBA Finals Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade and the aura of two

Jun 22, 2012, 11:48 AM EDT

Miami Heat's Wade goes up for basket past Oklahoma City Thunder's Westbrook and Perkins during Game 4 of NBA basketball finals in Miami Reuters

It’s not going to mean to him what it means to LeBron James.

It can’t. He didn’t go through the suffering year after year. He didn’t face the constant questions, the constant criticism. No matter what, Wade had cemented his legacy in his third season. He had a ring, and once you hit that level, you’re protected by shielding. That’s not to say Wade hasn’t taken criticism over the past two years. But the difference in what it means is significant. So no, this isn’t going to mean to Dwyane Wade what it means to LeBron James.

But in the aftermath of the Heat’s 121-106 win over the Thunder to win their first NBA Championship in the Triad era, we’re left with the revision to Wade’s legacy. Because two matters. And if you don’t think it does, talk to any member of the Boston Celtics, talk to anyone around the league. Multiple titles does put you on a different tier. One ring can be evaluated as a one-off, a sneak-in, it’s getting off the targeting of not having a title. But two? You’re legit. You’re someone you can build multiple titles around.

Wade’s path is different, and the Decision is always going to color that, but in a lot of ways, Wade’s second title was more difficult to accomplish than the first. Setting aside the level of difficulty the Heat faced in their opponents (and this should not take away from that ’06 Mavs team which was phenomenal), this was the first title where Wade had to figure out his role in a team, not the other way around. In 2006, everything was built around Wade. It was 15 Strong, but in reality, it was 14 complimenting one. And that’s a model for success. Putting a great player in a position to succeed has proven to be a path to the title.

But this was much more difficult. Wade had to figure out when to be the aggressor, the initiator, and when to move off-ball. He had to know when to operate as a decoy, and when to excel as a playmaker. He had to score, he had to play smart, and most of all, he had to defend.

These playoffs were far from the offensive brilliance of Dwyane Wade that we’re used to. He struggled with his shot, struggled with his touch, struggled with the toll on his body. But defensively, Wade was locked in. After a series of uncharacteristic whining episodes against the Pacers, he responded. It should not be understated that Wade had a fantastic series guarding James Harden. It’s spoken of as if Harden simply vanished, and like it was with LeBron James against the Mavericks in 2011, that wasn’t the case. It was a series of brilliant defensive adjustments and individual efforts that lead to Harden being limited, shut out, disappearing.

Wade may go down as the greatest shot-blocking guard ever, and this series was a showcase of that. His unique combination of elevation and timing for a superstar, especially given his overall output, makes him a gamechanger. If the Heat’s offense settled into a hierarchy of LeBron-Wade-Bosh-everyone else, the defense was a cloud of talent that played together. Wade was a huge part of that.

Let’s also not ignore the elephant in the room. We’ve seen superstars run coaches and other stars out of multiple teams. Wade could have balked at the role he was tasked with, he could have blown up Erik Spoelstra or had Bosh traded. He could have created a power struggle in defiance. He didn’t. He kept his head down, responded to bad games with good games, and made the little plays. He became the best complimentary player since Scottie Pippen.

Wade became a villain publicly more than ever these playoffs, which is a shame because of his contributions off the floor to charity and his overall maturity. But maybe that was necessary for the Heat to establish the identity they needed. He supported James at every moment, supported his coach, even after yelling at him in a game, supported the franchise.

Wade joins the fraternity of players with multiple titles, and when he retires, that will be the first thing we discuss about him. He gave us flashes, the one-handed runner, the finish after contact, the explosive transition plays. Wade has already made noise about how “father time” and how he can see it in the distance. We may have already seen the best years of Dwyane Wade’s career. But there’s every indicationto believe we haven’t seen the best of Dwyane Wade’s teams.

The star and the teammate. Dwyane Wade, 2-time NBA champion.

  1. jeffw - Jun 22, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Hey, as long as DW accepts an evolving role, this team can win 3 more titles over the next 5 years. Riles will need to keep providing a good supporting cast. But DW could eventually end up with 5 or six rings if they manage this correctly.

  2. hodaghunter - Jun 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    It will be near impossible for the Heat to put up multiple titles. Under the new CBA they will be lucky to ever afford any other players of starting caliber once the current contracts start running out. Unless they can convince guys to come and play for the vet min.

    • borderline1988 - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Can they not afford to keep Lebron, Bosh, Wade and Battier?
      No one else matters. They can rely on contributions from rookies and cheap 3pt specialists for everything else.
      Keeping Chalmers would be nice, but it’s not the biggest deal if he leaves.

    • caseybojangles - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      true and untrue

      whats untrue is the core of this championship team is locked up until after the 2013-14 season. that means at least 2 more runs.

      what is true is your CBA statement. there will be a tax the heat will pay for sure and its punitive for repeat offenders. mike miller probably won’t make it past next year…heck, he may even retire given his health problems and going out on top as a major contributor in a clinching 4th win in the finals is a heck of a way to go out. unfortunately the business side will kick in and its possible that he and his $6M contract gets amnestied as well.

      but yeah…replace miller with a guy like ray allen or steve nash who have made their money and want to win one is certainly plausible.

      • mannyfresh209 - Jun 22, 2012 at 3:57 PM

        They’re locked up until 13-14 and then they have player options. If they continue winning, we all know they’re going to accept those options.

  3. thenmoveback - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    The heat will only need a few new veterans to compete for numerous titles. Mario, Cole, Haslem are all still young and all contributed in the finals, and under contract. Just fill in the holes with players like Shane Battier who will take less money to play for a ring.

  4. mogogo1 - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    ” Wade could have balked at the role he was tasked with, he could have blown up Erik Spoelstra or had Bosh traded. He could have created a power struggle in defiance. He didn’t. He kept his head down, responded to bad games with good games, and made the little plays. He became the best complimentary player since Scottie Pippen.”

    One of the kookiest and most revisionist bits I’ve read in a long while. Outside the bit about Spoelstra, it’s all iffy at best…total fiction at worst. There was never any chance that Wade could have gotten Bosh traded. (And why would he want Bosh traded? Bosh doesn’t dominate the ball. A trade would almost certainly have brought in somebody who’d take way more shots from Wade than Bosh did.) He kept his head down? We’re talking about the same guy who was whining throughout the playoffs after pretty much every game they lost?

    The best complimentary player since Scottie Pippen? A) Since Bosh missed a big chunk of these playoffs, Wade was playing a huge role, not really complimenting others. B) Is a guy who’s Option 1B and shoots 17 times a game ever what you’d call “complimentary”? C) There’s a long list of guys in San Antonio, Boston and LA (some with multiple titles as a complimentary player) who’d have to part of that discussion.

    • mannyfresh209 - Jun 22, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      As far as complimentary players go, Wade is hands down the one that would be picked #1 overall. He’s a complimentary player that’s a SUPERSTAR. Who else has that? And yes, 17 shots a game can be considered a complimentary player. There’s a difference between being complimentary, and being a role player. Learn it.

      • mogogo1 - Jun 23, 2012 at 5:44 AM

        By that broad a definition, Kobe during his years with Shaq would be the ultimate example since Pippen because his game was totally different from Shaq’s and they truly did compliment each other’s games. (Much more so than Wade and LeBron since their games are quite similar.) But nobody says Kobe or Shaq were complimentary players because that’s not what the term generally means. “Complimentary” tends to describe a star meshing his game and making concessions to fit in well with the Alpha Dog, and by that definition Bosh is the best example on the Heat. (And it was no coincidence that without Bosh every series was going 7 games but with him things got a whole lot easier.)

        Wade’s a great player, but this column is just another example of “guy wins title, so let’s anoint him with every accolade we can think of.”

    • 1historian - Jun 23, 2012 at 8:55 AM

      When James got to Miami it was Wade’s team because Wade had been there longer and had a ring to show for it.

      This season James grew up and finally became the dominant player that some had been waiting for, and others had feared. Whatever – he is the best in the world right now and he knows it, as does Wade. This is James’ team and Wade is smart enough and mature enough to realize that, and/but he has shown numerous times in the past that he is more than ready to step up when needed.

      Other players – everyone will have those problems, but now that he has the nucleus – a young big 3 – it becomes a matter of finding the right complimentary parts year after year, and – Riley is a master at that.

      • finalword33 - Jun 24, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        I think the reason James didn’t win last season’s Finals was because he was confused about who’s team it was still. If he took over, he’d have 2 rings now. Dallas should NOT have won those games. It’s very clear that Wade passed the torch to him this season. Wade did what was best for the team, making it clear that the #1 player in basketball is the team’s leader. We all know it, and Wade knows he’ll get more rings if he plays complimentary ball.

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