In his prime, Dwyane Wade had it all. The thunderous dunk. The explosive first step. The dead-eye spot-up three-pointer. The leaping ability needed to quickly rise over taller defenders and YAM one on them.
All of these tools in D-Wade’s offensive toolbox, in addition to him being named to the league’s All-Defensive Team several times in his young career. He truly had everything; Wade was a celebrity from the day he was drafted, destined to be a star. Wade was “The Guy” on the Miami Heat, the biggest name on a resurgent team in a city that was experiencing a huge cultural moment in the mid-2000’s. In a weird, ouroboros, snake-eating-its-own-tail way, Miami made Dwyane Wade cool, while at the same time, Dwyane Wade made Miami cool.
People like to forget that Dwyane Wade won a championship without LeBron James, well before his best friend ever claimed a title. In 2006, while still on his goddamn rookie contract, Dwyane Wade won his first ring defeating Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks; averaging a whopping 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.7 steals, and 1.0 blocks on 46.8% shooting over 6 games. With help from Shaq, in his last decent year, D Wade put up one of the most dominant two-way performances in NBA Finals history.
Wade’s career in Miami was filled with iconic moments. His 42 point performance in Game 3 of that Finals to bring the Heat their first win of the series after going down 2-1, or his 36-piece that followed in Game 4 to even the series. D-Wade’s game winning steal into a buzzer-beater three to end a double overtime match up against his hometown Chicago Bulls in 2009–the image of Dwyane Wade jumping up onto the scorer’s table to shout at the crowd is burned into the permanent collective memory of the NBA. Then, of course, there’s the iconic D Wade/LeBron alley-oop photo, which Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis recently failed to recreate0.
Dwyane Wade had it all. Well, not quite it all–Dwyane Wade managed to be one of the most efficient and effective two-way players in the league for the better part of a decade without ever winning the regular season Most Valuable Player award. During his prime, Wade was the closest thing to Michael Jordan we have seen since the GOAT retired (I say this with no apologies to Kobe Bryant). He mixed celebrity flare with on court dominance, and he’s still Miami’s leading jersey-seller a season after he retired–it’s no wonder they’re selling jerseys he never wore with his name on it. It is rare to see a player that had so much success on the court, and that generated so much attention not only in the city of Miami, but from fans across the league, who never won the NBA’s highest honor.
D Wade’s best season came in ‘08-’09–when he averaged 30.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks. Wade came in third in MVP voting behind LeBron and Kobe in 2009, distantly winning the second most first place votes (only garnering 7 first place votes compared to James’ 109). I understand why voters gave James the nod in 2009, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the top of East over the Heat, but I can’t understand just how little love Wade got. This would prove to be essentially Wade’s last opportunity to earn the MVP award–he had a down year the next season, and teamed up with James and Chris Bosh the season after that.
|Dwyane Wade 2008-09 (Miami Heat)||LeBron James 2008-2009 (Cleveland Cavaliers)|
Despite being a vital part of three separate championship rosters and being one of the most iconic players of his generation, and probably a Top-25 player of all time, Dwyane Wade was never recognized as the single best player in the league in a given season. Perhaps if he was in his prime in the late 2010s, where the MVP electorate seems more focused on giving various elite players ‘their due’, Wade would have taken home the trophy, at least once. Or perhaps if he, LeBron, and Bosh had never teamed up, allowing Wade to have another season as statistically impressive and as on-ball heavy as 2008-2009 was for Wade. But I doubt that Wade will lose any sleep over it, with a career highlighted by championships, gold medals, and a full shelf of awards and accolades.
But seriously, can we give Wade LeBron’s 08-09 MVP and give LeBron Derrick Rose’s MVP? I feel like that would be a good compromise.
This month, Dani is celebrating the Banana Boat, 4 NBA legends and best friends, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, famously photographed together riding a Banana Boat while on a Caribbean vacation. If you missed their previous article on Carmelo Anthony, you can find it here, or their article on Chris Paul here.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Image Source: AP Images