At #23 of my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time https://www.djssportsshow.com/post/nba-75-greatest-players-of-all-time is a man who made Miami a basketball town, a relentless attacker, a fierce and unselfish competitor, a true leader, and one of the greatest finishers in NBA History who made Miami known as “Wade County” Dwyane Wade! Wade was born on January 17th, 1982, in Chicago Illinois to his mother Jolinda, and father Dwyane Sr. Growing up in the South Side of Chicago, while also dealing with his parents being divorced from a young age. His mother struggled with drug addiction while being in and out of prison.
Tragil, Wade’s older sister, fooled Wade into thinking they were going to the movies, but was really bringing him to live with their father and stepmother so he could have a more stable household. Wade would visit his mom occasionally until his father moved them back to Robbins, Illinois. To keep himself out of trouble, Wade would turn his focus on basketball and football where he would play for Harold L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn.
Wade would immediately excel in football as a wide receiver, but his basketball success wasn’t instant, failing to make the varsity team his first two years at the school. Growing four inches prior to his junior year would help Wade emerge as the leader of the team by averaging 20.7 points and 7.6 rebounds. He would only continue to improve heading into his senior year when he averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds per game, displaying the elite athleticism, finishing ability, and defensive instincts that would help make him a special player.
As a senior, Wade led the Bulldogs to a 24-5 record and a Class AA Eisenhower Sectional appearance. He would graduate in 2000 setting school records in scoring (676) and steals (106). Despite the raw athletic ability of Wade, he was lightly recruited coming out of high school, only being recruited by Marquette, DePaul, and Illinois State. Wade would commit to play for the Marquette Golden Eagles which was coached by Tom Crean at the time.
He would unfortunately be ineligible to play his freshman year due to Wade’s academic standards not reaching the NCAA requirements to play. Wade would use tutors and put in lots of effort to improve his GPA to be able to play his sophomore season in 2001-02. In that season he would lead the Golden Eagles in scoring (17.8 points per game), and led the Conference USA in both steals (2.4 spg), and field goals (205) while also averaging 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
Wade helped the Golden Eagles make the NCAA Tournament, but would get bounced out by Tulsa. He would break out as a junior, averaging a college career-high 21.5 points per game to help lead Marquette to a 27-6 record. A heartfelt moment came a few days later as Wade’s mother, Jolinda, was released from prison and was able to watch her son play basketball for the very first time in five years in a 70-61 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats to secure the Conference USA crown.
Wade’s individual heroics would lead the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four appearance in 2003 since winning the national championship in 1977. They would fall 94-61 to the Kansas Jayhawks despite Wade’s triple-double performance. He would be named to the All-American First Team by the Associated Press, which made him the first player in Marquette’s history to receive such recognition since Butch Lee in 1978.
Wade had some iconic performances in the tournament, including a 29 point, 11 rebound, and 11 assist game in a victory against the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats that led them to their first Final Four Appearance since 1977. He would be named the Midwest Regional MVP, and would enter the 2003 NBA Draft after seeing his draft stock explode after a junior season for the ages.
Ultimately, Wade would be given the nickname “The Flash” by his then teammate Shaquille O’Neal because of his blazing speed in the open court, ability to blow by defenders with ease, and get in the passing lanes for a steal. Coming into the NBA in the historic 2003 NBA Draft that had LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, Wade went fifth overall to the Miami Heat, a team that went 25-57 the year prior. He turned them into instant winners, making the playoffs in just his first season, which included a game winner against the New Orleans Hornets in Game 1 of the first round, showing his clutch ability, something that would continue throughout his career.
He would become an All-Star in just his second season and win a championship and Finals MVP in just his third season in the league! He averaged an unprecedented 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 6 games in the 2006 NBA Finals, arguably the best individual Finals performance in NBA History after being down 2-0 that series by the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavericks. He was a tenacious defender, having the most blocks by a guard all time with 885 and 1,650 steals, good for 30th all time in NBA History. He also was arguably the best finisher in NBA history, finishing through all types of contact and angles throughout his career while also posterizing defenders and had a solid mid-range jumper.
In 2008-09 he led the league in scoring, averaging 30.2 points per game in a season in which he probably should’ve won MVP. He would team up with LeBron and Bosh to form the Big Three and would go on to four more Finals and win two more championships (2012, 2013) to give him a total of three titles. He owns the Heat record book, being the leader in franchise points, steals, assists, free throws, field goals made, minutes played, games played, free throw attempts, and field goal attempts. He made Miami a basketball town and known as “Wade County,” who could ever forget when he stood on the podium after a game winner and said “this is my house!”
Injuries ruined what would have been a longer prime but Wade was too good on both ends and won too much to not be this high. Aside from his championships and Finals MVP Wade is a 13-time All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, eight-time All-NBA selection, three-time all-defense, and led the league in scoring (2009). He was an unselfish player who made others better and sacrificed his stats, accolades, and career totals to bring LeBron & Bosh along to help win two more titles. The only weakness in his game was he wasn’t a great shooter from three but despite that he made an indelible impact on the game and is the greatest player and athlete in Heat and Miami athlete in history.