OPINION: What we witnessed last week in the NBA was something remarkable.
No, not LeBron James' MVP performance, good as it was. Something rarer. American sport is obsessed with the alpha male.
Identifying the man to whom others turn to when the going gets toughest. The leader who takes over a game when it needs to be won. Players like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and James.
But what was unusual in the Heat's run to the championship was not James' stellar play – that was expected – but it was the sight of the team's one-time best player Dwayne Wade taking the backup role.
They say the hardest player to coach is the fading star, unwilling to accept his skills are not what they once were. But Wade has bucked that tag, shucked it like an ear of corn. For he not only accepted his role as James' sidekick but embraced it.
He was the franchise star for the Heat who led them to a championship and then enticed James and Chris Bosh to join him in a bid to establish a dynasty, "not one [championship], not two, not three", etc as James infamously told the Heat crowd.
But he surely did it knowing the Heat was his team and when games got close he would be the senior man who closed games out. This was the deal he struck with James who wanted to play more of a distributor role with his new team.
For the first season-and-a-half this was how it played out. James would dominate early and dish out the assists and then Wade took over down the stretch.
Then Wade got injured. That meant there was no option for James, the team was his responsibility.
In the regular season stretch without Wade the Heat went 14 and three. Then when Wade came back it was a different story.
From the Indiana series it became clear this was now James' team. The offence ran through him. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra went at it in a timeout over Wade's lack of effort on defence. But after that flare-up Wade couldn't be faulted.
Wade's knee injury meant he wasn't the attacking force he once was and he accepted that.
Many stars in the league – Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki – don't defend properly. They coast because they don't want to sap their scoring energy.
Wade willingly turned himself into the No 2 player on his own team and in doing so won a second championship ring. He also showed he was a bigger man.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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