Posted by Matt Moore
It was easier for Dwyane Wade, for his peace of mind, at least. A championship in your third season takes the pressure off of your Build-A-Legacy workshop. The only problem is it robs the player of blissful ignorance. Dwyane Wade has suffered through the past five seasons having tasted championship champagne and never sipping it again. The pressure of watching your career unwind without that ring is greater, LeBron will be the first to tell you that, Garnett's the one who taught it to him.
But Wade remains driven by the memories of 2006, determined not to rest on his laurels. For Wade, this championship drive is deeply personal, but it's not because of some pre-ordained self-concept as is the case with LeBron James. James is incomplete without a title, his self-image not hollow as so many of his critics claim, but incomplete, as if half his face is missing. Wade does not approach winning as a badge to be earned, part of his fashion statement. It's inherent. Wade reflects Kobe Bryant in that regard, the drive a part of his makeup. The difference being that Bryant would never deign to allow a superstar equal in caliber. Things have to be done on his terms. That's Bryant's makeup. Wade's, on the other hand, is to win regardless of ego, within acceptable boundaries. He ceded iconic status to Shaq. He considered joining Rose's Bulls (and though from Chicago and a substantially larger star, refers to Chicago as "Rose's city"). Wade not only accepted but recruited James to join his team, to become the face of the franchise he'd taken to their first title. Wade's ego is considerable, but he manages to shape it around whatever situation is best for him.
|Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Bulls|
Wade was central to this plan, to put together the Triad. Rumors put he and Pat Riley's machinations back years ago. Wade recruited the other two, sold them on the plan, got them to his city, not Chicago or New York. A failure this season, even with all the promsie of the future, means he sacrificed top billing for nothing. It means he may have been wrong in the plan. That all the criticism, the boos, the hatred, the hits to his popularity, was for nothing. That's a crushing blow, on top of what Wade hates more than anything: losing.
Wade needs to succeed, but not only that, he has to make his statement known as far as his involvement. If Bosh steps up, it's about how Bosh surprised everyone. If it's James, well, that's a whole other set of issues. Wade has to succeed and yet somehow impress everyone. That's what this series is about. It's going to be difficult for him, heading into his hometown to ruin their hopes. Well, okay, no it won't. Wade knows this is a business. He's got his guys, they've got theirs.
Wade has quietly had a stunning season, but a quick look at the All-NBA team rosters confirms how he's slipped in James' shadow, despite equal play. Wade needs to rise up beside James, showing their equals. That was the goal when this thing started. Wade has to finish the job, or his latter career will start to override the shine of that ring he received in that third year.