|Wade respects Dirk, which is nice. (Getty Images)|
After a hotly contested and controversial NBA Finals in 2006 that saw Dwyane Wade draw what many believed was a disproportionate amount of free throws, the Mavericks got their revenge in 2011, knocking the Triad off their perch and putting a title stamp on Dirk Nowitzki's legacy. During the course of that series, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were caught mocking Dirk Nowitzki's supposed illness, which did not help matters as far as tensions between the two teams.
Forgotten in that series were DeShawn Stevenson saying Wade didn't want a "tough" series, Jason Terry saying Jason Terry things, and Shawn Marion revealing before Game 6 in Miami that he only brought one pair of socks (meaning he did not intend to need more socks for Game 7).
So yeah, the two teams are not cozy.
But Wade had something to say about Nowitkzi that was in no way a knock in an interview with CNN. Wade was asked about what international player had the most impact on the NBA in expanding the game globally:
"You look and say Dirk is probably the one that has the most of the respect from the standpoint of what he's done for so many years in the NBA.
"Obviously they beat us in the finals and winning the championship really put him up there in his place where he should be in our time. But there are other players that have been there before I played that could be named as well."
It seems like an innocuous comment in a story about him getting into soccer. But the two stars have had a cool relationship since that first Finals meeting in 2006. They're not just competitors but rivals in a very real sense. There's bad blood between them, each and every time they meet. But it's good to see that Wade has some perspective, and understands what Nowitzki has done for expanding the sport.
There are others who have helped the league expand globally, but maybe no one has had such a starring role for as long as Nowitzki. And when Wade is saying nice things about Nowitzki, you know it's serious.