ard’s Superman style of play. Boston’s Three Party of Garnett, Allen and Pierce strike once they see the whites of your eyes. King James’ dominant rule converts his sworn enemies into awestruck witnesses. Whether home or away, every game is a dogfight. Though Wade’s shot was nothing short of amazing, there was something to behold in his next move.
The 2009 NBA playoffs were 20 games away when the Miami Heat hosted the Chicago Bulls. After four quarters, eight ties, nine lead changes and 11.2 seconds away from reaching a third overtime, the Bulls and Heat were tied at 127. The Heat faithful rallied for their team as Bulls’ forward John Salmons dribbled the ball atop the key. The Wade-anchored Heat adhered to the crowd’s boisterous chant of DEFENSE by eliminating all options. The game clock raced past the remaining 6.2 seconds when Salmons attempted to drive through Miami’s swarming zone defense. His poor decision proved costly. “When I got the steal, the first thing that came to mind is that Coach [Spoelstra] said we had a time-out, but then I looked up at the clock and said to myself ‘Hmmm—you have space— 76 36 August October2009 2009
go for it’,” Wade recollects. More than 19,000 fans rose to their feet once he took the game into his hands. Running against the clock with the Chicago Bulls on his heels; Wade crossed half court with 2.3 seconds remaining. Knowing that driving to the basket for a dunk was out of the question, he pulled up for a shot from three-point-range. The ball was airborne as the buzzer sounded and touched nothing but the bottom of the net summoning the crowd’s ovation. “When I released the ball, I knew it was in,” Wade says, his voice brimming with confidence. “It’s the greatest game winner of my career to date.” It was a perfect finish to a contest that had the atmosphere of a classic Game 7. Scenarios like these are commonplace in the Eastern Conference during the ides of March. No defense seems to be kryptonite to Dwight Howthegreenmagazine.com
Wade stood on top of the scorer’s table proclaiming to the frenzied crowd, some reaching up to him as he emphatically pounded his chest, that this was his house. His declaration embodied the dramatics of Jordan’s Cavalierkilling jumper over Ehlo and the Kobe to Shaq alley-oop that sank the Trailblazers. This was atypical of Wade. His silent assassin demeanor on the court is usually all business while f lashes of that patented smile during post game interviews define his celebration. However, this moment symbolized more than just him reclaiming the title and deed to Miami’s American Airlines Arena. This was his progressive ascension back to being one of the NBA’s elite. “This year meant a lot to me because a lot of people wrote me off,” Wade says. “And with every second, every basket— big or small—it was for all those who doubted me.” The once vivid images of Wade and his Miami Heat teammates hoisting the coveted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after their Game 6 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 are now sepia-toned. Wade’s accomplishments were almost forgotten as injuries to his shoulder and knee limited his playing time in the following two seasons after his rise to greatness. Missing 31 games during both campaigns, the once-championed Heat became an overnight laughing stock