Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dwyane Wade Is The CURRENT Michael Jordan

The Miami Heat finally have their next Michael Jordan -- fourteen years later.

In 1992, the Heat drafted Harold Miner, a 6'5" guard out of USC. He was dubbed "Baby Jordan" -- though I wasn't sure why at the time, and I sure as heck don't know why now -- 14 years after the fact. Regardless, Miner was supposed to be able to do things on the basketball court that only a certain #23 for the Chicago Bulls was capable of doing. He was a first round pick, #12 off the board. How 11 teams managed to pass up on such a sure thing as the next MJ would be curious, except those teams were clearly much smarter than the executives from the Heat.

Miner was out of the NBA three years later, a career PPG of 9.0. The legend of Jordan was saved!

But now I submit to you that the Heat do indeed have a player that's as close of a package to Michael Jordan as I've ever seen.

Dwyane Wade, I begrudgingly declare, is the current Michael Jordan. But don't misunderstand me here. For to declare someone the "current Michael Jordan" is not the same as saying that player is as good as Michael Jordan. Though Wade is pretty damn close.

Wade is poetry in motion -- a stylish artisan of swoops, leaps, fadeaways, and hangs. He is an assassin in sneakers -- a player to whom the fourth quarter belongs, with hardly a failure. He has a cache of weapons that nobody else possesses. The only chink, to me, is his pedestrian three-point shot. The same shot that took Jordan several seasons to hone.

I knew Wade was good, but I had no idea just how good until I saw him slice and dice the Pistons in the Conference Finals. You'd still have trouble convincing me that Wade missed even one shot in the Pistons series -- even if you showed me a videotaped replay of it. Then I would tell you that you had the tape digitally altered by some Hollywood hotshot.

THAT'S what I'm talking about!

Now, in the NBA Finals -- the world's biggest basketball stage -- Dwyane Wade is filleting the Dallas Mavericks. Once again the fourth quarter is his and his alone. The shooting percentage isn't always high -- less than 40% in Game 5 -- but the effects his game has on the outcome is undeniable. With about ten seconds to go in Game 5, the Heat down by one, Wade got the ball and proceeded to dribble through about three or four Mavericks. Most players would be considered out of control. But Wade was very much in control. All of the Mavericks, it seemed, collapsed on him. No matter. Wade drew the foul, then calmly -- CALMLY -- sank both free throws, the nothing-but-net variety. Those free throws provided his team with the margin of victory, which has enabled Miami to win its first ever NBA title tonight.

Wade has the same gravity-defying airborn abilities -- it appears -- that Jordan so brilliantly displayed. He has the Jordan fadeaway jumper. The Jordan magic beneath the basket on baseline drives.

He does not, though, possess the Jordan number of basketball championships -- he may yet approach them -- nor does he play in the same league that which Jordan ruled. And that second thing is why I call Wade the "current" Michael Jordan.

Wade's NBA is a watered-down version of Jordan's NBA. More teams, thinner talent on those teams. He -- Wade -- is a prince of paupers, while Jordan was a king of royalty.

But that doesn't mean that Dwyane Wade isn't one of the very best players to ever slip on an NBA tank top and shorts. He is. In today's game, he is without question the best player on any team, on any day.

He will have his time, as Jordan did before him and Bird, Magic, Kareem, Chamberlain, and Russell did before that. They all had theirs, which is all anyone can ask.


Ian C. said...

Do I get tomatoes thrown at me by mentioning that the Pistons should've/could've drafted Wade?

No? No point in that? Okay.

Who knew he'd be that good? True. But what if you watched him play for Marquette in the NCAA tournament? Still no? Okay.

Greg Eno said...

Ian, I've always said that there are two Joe Dumars: Dumars the Drafter, and Dumars the Dealer. One sucks, the other's great.

Dumars the Dealer seems to follow behind Dumars the Drafter with a pooper-scooper.