While you were busy attacking or defending LeBron James for moving to Miami, Dwyane Wade was almost universally praised and respected for staying in Miami.
Haters were anticipated after Wade agreed to re-sign with the franchise he led to the 2006 NBA championship, Chris Bosh agreed to join him, and then LeBron completed the circle. But even more surprising than the sudden and vicious negative backlash against LeBron, was the lack of backlash against Wade. In fact, in the eyes of many, Wade had vaulted his two-time MVP teammate in the game’s hierarchy before the new-look Heat had even played a game. A handful of games into the schedule, it’s still up for debate whether LeBron (20.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.4 spg) or Wade (22.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.6 spg) is truly The Man.
Considering that Wade could have been brought up on the same charges LeBron faced throughout the summer — indirectly admitting he can’t win a championship on his own, choosing to join ‘em when he couldn’t beat ‘em, dissing his hometown squad, etc. — it’s a wonder he went unscathed. There was a brief media firestorm when Wade was quoted in an interview comparing any Miami losing streak to 9/11, but even that was quickly extinguished when it was revealed that Wade was misquoted.
So while his teammates and his franchise have been villainized, Wade has been the league’s Teflon Don. His place as one of the League’s elite superstars and popular pitchmen has been uncompromised. I got up with Wade in an interview from Dime #60 where he talked about his public image.
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Dime: You said back in December (Dime #54) that you would sit down with guys like LeBron and Bosh and talk about free agency. Judging by how shocked people seemed when it actually happened, do you think you weren’t taken seriously?
Dwyane Wade: I don’t know. I mean, guys have communication. Chris, Joe (Johnson), LeBron, Amar’e, Boozer … Even if it’s not having a deep conversation about it, you still wanna get a feel of what people’s focus is gonna be. One guy may be looking to win a championship, another guy maybe wants a certain amount of money, this and that. Once you get the feel of the direction individual players are going in, then you see it’s a possibility you could play together.
Dime: Why did LeBron get so much negative reaction, when you and Chris really didn’t by comparison?
DW: I think LeBron took a lot of heat because of the dynamic of his decision. He was leaving Cleveland. His decision was a lot harder than mine or Chris’ decision. He grew up in Akron, so it’s totally different from me or Chris, who grew up in different places. I didn’t grow up in Miami and Chris didn’t grow up in Toronto. LeBron had been in one spot for 25 years, so they would react totally different. The one thing we have to do is support him as our teammate.
Dime: Does your game have to change now? Is your role different?
DW: Yeah, it’s going to be different, but I’m looking forward to it. The last couple years it’s been like I’d come into the season trying to get our team to the playoffs. Now our goals are high. We’re trying to compete for a championship.
Dime: Knowing that, what did you want to work on this summer in your training?
DW: As a basketball player you always work on things and continue to fine-tune your game. I’m working on some new parts: Extending my range, being a better penetrator, my pull-up jumper, shooting better … But the biggest thing is getting in great shape. That goes a long way.
Dime: At least according to the media and fans, Bosh has been the “other” guy in Miami. How important is he to you guys reaching the goals you’ve set?
DW: Chris is very important. People are underestimating him. I think in Toronto, they didn’t really see him a lot, they just saw his stat lines and maybe highlights. They didn’t see the player he is. He’s going to shock a lot of people with how talented he is, and he’ll flourish with the bright lights on him. I look at him like Pau Gasol for this year. Pau was a good player in Memphis, but people didn’t really know it until he got to L.A. It’s about being put in the right position and being seen.
Dime: You guys are the new Yankees. You’re the Cowboys. You’re the bad guys. Do you embrace that role?
DW: You know what? It’s fine. Whatever. At the end of the day we’re just playing basketball. We’re playing a sport that we love to play, and we so happen to be friends playing together. I’m playing with a bunch of talented guys, so I’m not necessarily worried about the crowds and getting booed and all of that. Everybody in Miami is happy about what we’ve accomplished. But the summer is over for us now. We’re moving onto bigger and better; we’re beyond the boos and cheers right now. Us being the Yankees of basketball, that’s all great headlines, but it doesn’t win us ballgames.