***This piece comes with a disclaimer. I wrote this for submission to SLAM and was politley denied as the time wasn't right for a negativity piece. Luckily, I have another place to voice my ideas, so enjoy a Heat's fan perspective on Mr. Wade's place in the game.
Does anyone remember the summer of 2006? The Summer Of Love for Heat fans? The summer when 18 years of frustration disappeared quicker than a Klondike bar in Jerome James locker..... Yeah, I don’t either. That summer, Heat fans everywhere were overexcited in ways that only spastic school girls get while standing up and screaming along to “The Best Of Both Worlds” during a Hannah Montana concert. Idiotic ecstacy. I had it for a minute, but never really let it take over my mind. I was use to a decade’s worth of Chicago Bull titles and playoff runs as a former diehard Bulls fan to be phased by one improbable title run by an outclassed squad who in the words of basketball fans around the world and on SLAMOnline, told me that either Dwyane Wade was the “next” MJ/Kobe/Lebron type talent that was just starting his resume of greatness or on the flip side, so many others told me that “that title is bullsh*t” “Wade was given every call” etc, etc and that “D-Wade ain’t sh*t”. Yeah, man, you guys can be harsh. :)
Sometimes, it was hard to digest this toxic mix of hate and jealousy, but as you guys know, I love a good battle. So I went into last season thinking, “well, Dwyane, this is your time to show what you really can do. Prove the haters wrong. Show them it was no fluke.” Better yet, make me a believer, kid. Don’t let me and Cheryl be the only people in the SLAM universe who take your support seriously. Show these jokers who you are. Great idea, bad follow through. You guys know what happened to the Heat last year. You don’t? Ok, in brief, old team got older, injuries took games away, crap record kept Heat fans on pins and needles thinking they might not get a playoff spot, blah, blah, blah. Then it happened. The Injury. The one that hasn’t been lived down yet. The separated shoulder/crippling of a franchise/cripple being taken away in a wheelchair like Fred Sanford after one of his various “Big Ones”. I knew dude was in pain when I watched it happen. Seeing him wheeled away was just a tad much, you know. I hold dude’s to an extremely high standard in their play, approach to the game, what they do in terms of changing games and teams fortunes and how they deal with adversity. It was D-Wade’s first real injury issue and damn, he looked bad in his dealing with it. Sure he toughed it out, tried to make a late-season recovery and tried to will the Jurassic Park squad into position to be effective in the playoffs. Uhm........that didn’t happen. Those “Baby Bulls” didn’t seem so infantile and made the Heat seem....well you can’t be older than the universe, can you? So it was back to the lab, or at least I though it should have been that way.
I chose to write this as a way to show my displeasure with Dwyane’s current standing in the game and his descent (yeah, I said it) from the league’s Golden Boy to now one of the league’s most vilified player. The first two years of his career? Nice, balanced, coming to grips with his potential greatness. Breathing life into a stagnant franchise. Shaq helped him get a title in year three and he was now mentioned in the same breath of Lebron and Kobe for his talent, determination and perception of greatness. A funny thing happened along the way, though. Dwyane became a conglomerate. A T-Mobile salesman in Converse. The poster boy of the McDavid machine. Dwyane’s good natured humbleness seemed to be at the back door about to jump into the Escalade with Diddy’s driver and Diddy seemed to be coming through the front door with a chinchilla coat and a hidden pistol, ready to make Dwyane the alter image Diddy wished he could be if had basketball talent in the same context as the remix.
I started seeing “The Change” during the comeback return last season. I don’t know if it was Dwyane’s injuries that was fueling it or the fact that he became so used to the “friendly” call on his behalf, but Dwyane’s constant bitching to the refs became problematic to me as a fan. “Dude, shut the f*ck up and play the game” I would say (literally, out loud) while watching and I noticed the lack of killer instinct that had carved his niche the season before. By the time the playoffs rolled around, it had become as annoyingly commonplace as My Super Sweet 16 reruns, and I said to myself “Eboy, he’ll get it right over the summer. Once he’s healthy he’ll start wrecking sh*t again”. ................................... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Damn Eboy, I know you can be funny sometimes (not to everyone though, you guys know who you are) but damn son, old school Richard Pryor’s got nothing on you. “Wrecking sh*t? You do know that the Heat are currently the worst franchise in the history of modern professional sports, right??” Fu*k you, Eboy. I hate you, too. Alright, maybe I’m pushing it about the Heat as a whole, but Mr. Wade is catching feelings from me nightly. Yes, I’ve watched every abortion of a game this season. Yes, my allegiance to them is unwavering. Yes, I know that ridding ourselves of Shaq’s mass and massive contract is like the weight of a mountain that was ripped from the ground and landed squarely on my home that needed 10 years to dig out from. Yes, the Heat took on a good player to fill in the blanks. Good, not great as some of my fellow commentors like to call Maid Marion. The Heat are a work in progress, like a recovering addict. Time is needed to return to normalcy, some would claim, decency. Dwyane in my eyes is in that same vein. He needs to build from what he was before. A killer... a stealer of souls... a murderer with a million dollar smile. Sure he still has the talent and the GOD given ability to be “THAT” guy but as the song goes, “What Have You Done For Me Lately”.
I can only surmise that Dwyane has let the fame, the magazine covers, the tv ads, etc. get to his head and I can’t stand it. Yes the shoulder and knee surgery were a lot to gloss over and the rumored marital problems can be so hurtful to a person who spends his life in the limelight but still, at the end of the day, you get paid to ball. At the highest level. And you are expected to be great. Getting embarrassed by Kobe Bryant on your home floor, turning the ball over more often than I post comments, looking to the officials to save face each tame you make a mistake is not what you were about when you began your legacy. There was a doorway that you could have entered, Mr. Wade, reserved for legendary players if you just stayed the course (thanks George W., only thing that piece of sh.....oh forget it) but it seems that your ENTIRE head size is becoming equal to the width of your cheeks. I hate seeing it. I think other Heat fans (are there any left) see it too.
Dwyane, you asked for help, a change in culture, something to boost the team. Guess what?.....that greasy haired bastard got it done......again. Through hell and high water he moved the unmovable and made the future a little brighter than just a random Monday afternoon in the MIA. He’s proved his weight by engineering a title and helping to change the future of the franchise. You are it’s cornerstone. The bedrock of Biscayne Bay. The world needs heroes, Dwyane. You are molded to be one. You were one. The greatest ballplayer in the NBA for a few weeks two summers ago. Don’t let the mold set with cracks in it. Salvage your legacy, save yourself, as you saved the team against the insurmountable odds the Mavericks gave you. Make us believe in you again, Dwyane. Make me eat my words.