On the John: In a flash, he’s gone

On the John
In a flash, he’s gone
Originally debuted on the readjack.com blog March 10, 2009Bulls Heat Basketball

In the spring of 2000, Dwyane Wade and I received our high school diplomas, the state of Illinois’ first graduating class of the new century. Since that time, he has achieved more professionally. This is not a knock on me—I’m pleased with how things are going—but rather a respectful nod to a man who is really very nice and good at what he does.

That would be basketball. His work, his play, his craft, his art. And for those of us who love the game, Monday night’s running-and-jumping buzzer-evading three-point launch of a winner down there in Miami was proof positive that Chi-Town’s (current) finest is on his way to a legacy of true hoops greatness.

Of course, if you were a Bulls fan, it was also a nasty little reminder of how quickly things can change in this sports world of ours. One minute your Bulls are preseason East favorites, and the next, everything has reset around a 20-year-old point guard who, if we’re lucky, will one day leave that South Florida crowd crying a lullaby of their own, the kind that I whimpered out on my living room floor after Wade’s steal-drive-shoot sequence made MJ’s Game 6 in Utah look like his Game 1 in Orlando.

That’s sports for you. A blink of an eye, a heartbeat away, stop on a dime and flip it till you’re left wondering why things don’t look the way you remembered them, why not one thing came out as you’d planned, why a soon-to-be Salmons jumper was replaced with Numero Tres celebrating on the scorer’s table. They don’t call him Flash for nothing.

Curious nickname, Flash. Bestowed by The Big Nicknamer himself, it’s said to reference a song by Queen from 1980’s Flash Gordon. Take a look at the lyrics and you’ll quickly see why. But could Shaquille have also had Mr. Wade’s lightning quick step in mind? While watching Wade play ball in the red, white, and blue this summer, I described him as “the Deion Sanders of the hardwood.” Sixth on the team in minutes yet its leader in scoring, a man who consistently turned decent-enough passes into points the other way…

In the minds of pundits, those eight sterling games were the Question, albeit whispered at first: Is D-Wade back? I suppose this MVP season has been the Answer. That trey that broke our backs, the punctuation.

And yet…that’s all backwards, isn’t it? This is Dwyane Effing Wade we’re talking about! Dude won’t be gone until he’s lying on a table with his arms and legs amputated, and even then I wouldn’t bet against him. Has he raised his game to another level this year? Made the doubters chew their socks? Indeed. But that’s just him. Just what he does. In a flash, he’s not where you thought he would be.

That’s what knocks me out most. Not his talent, drive or passion. His career arc. Now that is impressive. Back in that spring of 2000 I was probably recruited harder for my words than Wade was for his jumper. Check out statsheet.com’s top 100 for that year. Did Wade make the top ten? No sir. Top 20? Top 50? Top 100? No, no, no again. Way down in the alphabetized honorable mention group, rated after six of his fellow Land of Lincolners—that’s where you’ll find him.

So I went off to Bloomington, a ballyhooed freshman journalist, and Wade went off to Marquette, an Illinois hoops afterthought. Wasn’t supposed to do much in college. Not expected to lead the team in scoring as a sophomore. Damn sure wasn’t supposed to drag an underwhelming Golden Eagles squad to the Final Four as a junior, or drop a 29-11-11 on Kentucky in the process. Crazy to think that he is being projected as a top ten pick, that the Bulls might reach for him at 7, that the Heat nabbed him at 5.

Yeah? So? Bron and Melo, Melo and Bron, but wait a second…could this Wade kid…nah, no chance…right? No chance he puts up 16.2, or carries Miami to the second round while Anthony (1st round) and James (lottery) watch from home. Even after swinging Shaq in Year Two, it’s not like Miami can hang with Detroit…right? OK, OK, so he can get them to Game 7. Commendable. But there’s no way in Milwaukee he’ll be a full blown superstar in Year Three, or get El Heat past the Pistons, or average 39.3 in the last four games of the Finals to best the Mavs while beating Bron and Melo and the rest of the ’03 crew to a title?

And are we to believe that he can come back from injuries to be of any use at all in Beijing? Should we take it on good faith that he can still play a full season while shining like an MVP-watt light? Are we expected to just know in our hearts and brains and fingernails that the man who Gets Up 8 will still be getting up on nine, ten, fifteen, and twenty?

I mean, for goodness sake, doesn’t he ever stop?

Copyright 2009, jm silverstein

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