By Travis Stahl
LeBron did it, he finally did it! The Miami Heat eliminated Oklahoma City Thursday night giving LeBron James his first NBA championship. The sniping about LeBron can now stop. No more discussions about how he plays in the clutch and definitely no more talk about his place in the legacy of the league. Lost in all of this postseasons LeBron madness has been teammate Dwayne Wade. We all now know James’ place in NBA history but where does Wade fit in?
Wade now has two NBA titles one as the star of the show and one as the sidekick. He has displayed the kind of dominance in the finals we expect from NBA legends when he single-handily defeated Dallas in the 2006 finals giving the Heat their first title. Now Wade has a title as the facilitator of the Miami offense and a defensive stopper for the team. Wade is 30 years old, has bad knees and an up-and-down jump shot. But he has heart and that means a lot.
So in the discussion of greatest players in the history of the NBA where does Wade fit in? He has been a great player in this era for sure, probably ranking higher than Paul Pierce of the Celtics. Wade is probably not in the top-ten of all-time players but you could make the argument he belongs in the top-20 to top-30. With two rings and three finals appearances Wade would be ranked higher than Julius Erving and Charles Barkley and would at least be on equal footing with Isaiah Thomas and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Wade’s legacy in the history of the NBA is already established but could be far from over. The playoffs this year proved Wade doesn’t have to score 25 points a night for the Heat to win. Its conceivable Wade could continue playing at the level he was in the playoffs for the next three years and letting James do all the heavy lifting. Wade was willing to be “Plan B” this entire season and it worked out pretty well which could lengthen his career especially if Chris Bosh improves. It’s not out of the question that Wade could finish his career with three or four rings. I can see Wade playing the Joe Dumars role where he is only asked to guard the other team’s best backcourt player and hit an occasional open jump-shot.
Wade should probably now be considered a top-20 player in NBA history. Truly great players are the ones who are willing to adjust their game in order for their team to continue winning. Wade is a true competitor, he wants to be the dominant player on the team like he was six years ago but that is not possible. Still, in the clutch, how many other players from this generation would you like to see with the ball in their hands at the end of the game other than Wade? Maybe James and that’s about it.