A few hours before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was about to tip off a text message came through.
“If the Heat lose tonight, do they try and trade D-Wade for a big man?”
And that, was where the career of Dwyane Wade stood.
A forgettable playoff campaign, capped by a truly awful 3-11, non-existent showing in Game 6 had the basketball world wondering if this might be the end.
The text message came from a smart, young basketball mind. If this idea was being said by one person, it was being thought by many more. Perhaps this would be the last stand for the man who once had shoe campaign with the slogan, “Fall down 7, stand up 8.”
The career of Dwyane Wade has been full of these moments. Down, crumpled on the floor, counted out and no hope in sight.
Only to rise again.
Wade has made a legacy now of setting up doubt in his dominance, to then, on the biggest stages, remind everyone that he is the most important factor to his team’s success.
So there were his Heat, pushed to the brink of elimination by throwback Eastern Conference Pacers team. One game would decide the legacy of this team, the Big 3 and this modern marvel of a team that had once promised to win so, so many championships. And with all of lights focused on LeBron James, the world’s best player knew what that young basketball mind had forgotten. This was on Wade.
When the game started it was immediately apparent that Flash was back. Attacking the rim, crashing the boards and simply refusing to be denied. His scoop shot lay up in the first few possessions of the game set the tone. Later, it was a vintage Wade, stealing an errant pass, going on a fast break and taking a big bounce step over Lance Stephenson to finish with an emphatic slam. Yes, this would be another Dwyane Wade rising.
In the deciding 3rd quarter, Wade put on a show. In one possession he drove the lane, missed a short jumper, and before the defense had a chance to jump for the rebound, Wade was above the rim, grabbing the ball and putting it back in, plus the foul. It was the same relentless and borderline reckless attacking that lead the Heat to their first title in 2006. When the 3rd period was over Wade had 9 points and 4 offensive rebounds. The Heat had a 21-point lead.
He would finish the game with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Surely not the gaudy headline-making numbers of James (32 pts, 8 reb) but it was his aggressiveness and all out assault on the rim that set the tone for his team. Those same qualities will be required for the Heat to win their 3rd NBA title.
All the experts will point to this Finals match up between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat being decided by the play of the reigning MVP, LeBron James. Or maybe they’ll say that it’ll be determined by the never-ending brilliance of Tim Duncan. Heck, cases are even being made for Tony Parker, the Spurs point guard, holding the outcome of this series in his hands. But for all the experts and their opinions, James, the world’s most phenomenal talent, knows otherwise.
He said so both publicly and privately before the deciding game with the Pacers. He couldn’t do it alone. He needed help. He needed Flash back.
There is a reason that James and Chris Bosh went to Miami to play with Wade and not the other way around. It’s the same reason Pat Riley has stood by him all this time, never wavering. Wade is a winner. And in a world that thirsts for dramatics, he is the best kind. In the biggest games he becomes an unshakable force who believes that his will to win will overtake talent or injury.
The text received before Game 7 was sent to a few other people in the league for their thoughts. Most privately conceded that if the Heat were to lose, it would have to be considered. Yes, perhaps this would be Wade’s final stand.
All but one.
“I wouldn’t count Wade out. That’s exactly what he wants you to do.”
Indeed. Fall down 7, get up 8.
Make no mistake, if the Heat are to beat the Spurs, it will be on the shoulders of the game’s most dramatic showman. Just when everyone thinks he’s down for the count, Dwyane Wade rises.
Scott Christopher is a guest writer for Next Impulse Sports. Follow him @ScottC247