untung99.biz: 2023 Basketball Hall of Fame Dwyane Wade was undeniable even among other generational greats

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will formally welcome its Class of 2023 on Saturday. This week, Yahoo Sports is highlighting notable names in this class, leading up to the big ceremony.

It’s almost as if Dwyane Wade was a player of his time, ahead of his time and a throwback, all in one package.

Well, multiple packages depending on when one observed Wade at his best or most effective. He lands at an intersection of a historical player with undeniable bona fides while also managing to be a tantalizing “what if” figure as he prepares for first-ballot induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

Wade wasn’t a 3-point shooter, but it never seemed to bother him, attacking the basket, hitting the floor and popping back up for more punishment. And his realization that he couldn’t win alone helped usher in the super-team era that permeated through the league for the last decade or so.

Depending on how one evaluates Jerry West’s on-floor position, only he, the late Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan rank ahead of Wade at basketball’s most glamorous position — shooting guard.

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It’s the spot that engenders the most imagination, where players look human enough to make one believe the impossible is attainable yet creative and quick enough to snap you back to reality.

Seeing Wade in action, particularly at his athletic peak, epitomizes such sentiments. Watching him later, when his hands weren’t full of big spades at every turn, showed his actual greatness as a basketball player.

And not many in history could follow suit.

In recent time, perhaps due to personal sacrifices in the prime of his career, Wade has become reduced to a guy who happened to play with iconic players as opposed to one capable of standing alone without taking a backseat to the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and later, LeBron James.

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade reacts during Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The 2011 NBA Finals was one of the most important and legacy-defining in the past generation because it propelled fellow inductee Dirk Nowitzki to exorcise red-and-black demons while sending James to a summer of soul-searching that led to the next two Miami Heat titles.

Lost in that was Wade being this close to polishing off his second Finals MVP and second championship as Nowitzki’s tormentor. The Finals stage was too enormous for James to handle, while Wade again rose to the occasion, averaging 26.5 points, seven rebounds and 5.2 assists.

Had Wade been supported properly, it would’ve been much more difficult to cede his position as 1A next to James the next season. Perhaps they figure it out a different way and Wade doesn’t have to take a supporting role, but with his knees starting to deteriorate, perhaps it was the best move.

Still, though, an opportunity was wasted in a way, all the while creating one.

Wade produced magic in his first 50 playoff games, before turning 25. He averaged 25.4 points, six assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and just under a block per game in his first three playoff runs.

It was capped off by a tour de force in the 2006 Finals. The Miami Heat weren’t just down two games to none. It was more like 2.999-0 in Game 3 before Wade went off in a huddle with the Heat down 13 midway through the fourth.

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“I ain’t going out like that!” Was the phrase, or rather, the rallying cry as he rescued the Heat from a possible sweep, averaging 39.2 points in the last four games of the series and cementing himself as a historic great.

It’s on the short list of greatest Finals performances of all time, and on a shorter list if one considers this millennium.

It was Jordanesque, a fact that wasn’t lost on Pat Riley — a man who for the most part had to deal with Jordan yearly in playoff battles while coaching the New York Knicks and later, the Heat.

“He had a game similar to Michael,” Riley said to Miami-based writers on a conference call earlier this week. “He was like a cat. He was like a cougar when he put the ball on the floor, and he started going to the hoop. And we used to watch it on tape all the time, we used to say look at how low he is to the ground. And he still has the strength and the power to go right or left spin and dunk the ball or little floaters and stuff. That’s Michael.”

Ironically, one of Jordan’s nicknames was “Black Cat,” given to him by Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield.

It was a little telling Riley compared Wade, not James, to Jordan — going as far as saying Wade’s stance during free throws mimicked Jordan.

Dwyane Wade takes a free throw during a game in 2018. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

“If you watched him stand and cross his legs and put his hands on his hips, it was like how Jordan would rest during free throws,” Riley said. “He had a game similar to Michael. He was unstoppable one-on-one. Michael was unstoppable one-on-five.”

Recently retired point guard turned storyteller and podcaster Jeff Teague claimed he sees more people playing like James Harden on the playgrounds than Wade, saying that’s the reason he feels Harden is better. If someone was playing like Wade athletically on a playground, they’d get tested for performance-enhancing drugs and then sent to some college recruiter.

The sacrifices and instances that hurt Wade have cost him in this invisible argument because he values rings over individual glory. Especially as Paul Pierce loves poking the hornet’s nest at every turn with his apparent comical claims that he is superior to the Heat star. But playing with the likes of an aging O’Neal isn’t easy, same as fitting into James’ massive orbit when he decides to cast a shadow over everyone near.

It certainly seems there’s a lack of appreciation for Wade as he nears enshrinement, his injuries or something else preventing a true celebration for a stellar career. A knee surgery in college likely prevented Wade from having an even stronger body of work — having his meniscus removed in 2002 brought him back on the floor quicker for Marquette, but caused him trouble toward the end of James’ time in Miami.

And Riley noted Wade playing through a shoulder injury in 2007 likely cost him for the next season — because Wade wanted to lead an aging Heat team to at least have a chance to repeat. Instead, they were swept in the first round, shockingly, by the Chicago Bulls.

He returned with a vengeance from 2008-10, as Riley stripped the roster in preparation for big-name free agency. Wade carried undermanned Heat rosters while newbie Erik Spoelstra learned on the job as Riley’s sideline replacement.

“At that time, I felt I was the best player in the game,” Wade told Yahoo Sports in 2019. “My confidence was out of the roof, I felt that what I brought to the game was different than other guys. Even though LeBron was LeBron and Kobe was the best of our generation, I felt for those couple years I was dominant and if I had the team around me, I could’ve did it for us.

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh celebrate after the Miami Heat won the 2013 NBA Finals over the San Antonio Spurs. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Revisionist history and nostalgia puts James and Bryant at the forefront of that discussion, but during that time, Wade was arguably the most inevitable and relentless force in basketball.

Spoelstra believes Wade should’ve been MVP in 2009, the year he finished third behind James and Bryant. If it’s one thing he’s missing from his Hall of Fame résumé, it’s the only thing he’s missing.

But his basketball life has been full and rewarding, a rare blend of fulfilling potential while also having enough fork-in-the-road moments that makes one wonder how much higher he could’ve gone if other forces had just cooperated.

Then again, it just lets you know how determined Wade was to achieve greatness, and now it’ll be immortalized in Springfield.