Following the 2014 NBA Finals, after the Miami Heat had been defeated by a record points margin in the 4-1 series defeat to the San Antonio Spurs, many people wondered if Dwyane Wade was finished.
Alongside fellow ‘big three’ teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh, he was comprehensively denied a chance of a three-peat by San Antonio and could therefore not add a fourth championship ring to his resumé.
Wade was worn down, knee injuries taking their toll on the superstar, who could take part in only 54 of the Heat’s 82 regular season fixtures as he had been, in part, trying to save himself for the playoffs.
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But after the crushing loss, it was all change in Miami, as the team was soon thrown up in the air after James’ sudden decision to return ‘home’ to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Many saw James’ choice to leave the Heat, and his best friend, Wade, as a signal that LeBron no longer believed he could win more titles alongside his pal in South Beach while shouldering such a large amount of the workload.
This meant an aging Wade would now have to carry the load once again for the first time in four years, however, still accompanied by Bosh this time, who would also help lead the side.
Wade played 62 games in the 2014-15 regular season, with the team being touted as dark horses for the Eastern Conference title after trading for Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic.
Unfortunately for the Heat, Bosh was to go down injured the following day after suffering from a blood clot in his calf, which ruled him out for the rest of the season, and the Heat could not adapt with their new additions in time to qualify for the playoffs.
After the extended rest from missing out on the playoffs, Wade made it his mission to try and compete with LeBron’s Cavaliers side in the hope of bringing another ring back to Florida, losing 20 pounds of weight during the off-season, which drastically improved his knee problems.
With a revamped Wade, the Heat came back strong this season after lucking out at the Draft by being able to take the player many had deemed the most ‘NBA-ready’ of the draft prospects, Justise Winslow, with the tenth pick.
The South Beach franchise also had great production from their other rookie, Josh Richardson, their second-round pick, who has exceeded all expectations and is now playing crucial playoff minutes for the team.
Yet, once again, the Heat’s season looked in tatters when Bosh was forced to miss the final 29 games of the season after the All-Star break, reportedly due to the same blood clot issue.
The 11-time All-Star had been pleading with the Heat to let him return to action for the playoffs, but the franchise deemed it too dangerous to allow their power forward to continue playing, and he was ruled out for the rest of the season last week.
Without one of their two stars, it appeared as though the Heat would struggle once again, but Wade and his supporting cast pushed on, with Luol Deng stepping up to take Bosh’s position and the team acquiring free agent Joe Johnson after he was bought out by the Brooklyn Nets.
Miami ended the regular season third in the Eastern Conference and since the playoffs began, Wade has delivered a message loud and clear, that when it comes down to it, he can still perform at an elite level and has the ability to turn games on their head.
It had looked as though Miami were on the verge of exiting the playoff in the first round, down 3-2 in the series for a game six in Charlotte against the Hornets, but once again Wade came up trumps. He made two consecutive three-pointers in the final two minutes to keep the Heat alive, having not made a three since the December 16.
The Heat came through game seven at home comfortably to set up a second-round series with two-seed Toronto, where Wade has had to shoulder the responsibility once again.
He put two more vintage performances on display in games three and four, scoring a combined 68 points, as the series now heads back to Canada at two games apiece, even rolling back the years with a spectacular put-back dunk over his teammate Udonis Haslem.
If the Heat are to have any chance of progressing to the Conference Finals, Wade will need to continue playing at this incredible level, which, at the age of 34 will not be easy, but he has proven so far in these playoffs, he is far from done.
Even if they do scrape past Toronto, Miami may run into a buzz saw in the next round, as Cleveland are playing their best basketball of the season and if Hassan Whiteside cannot return from injury Miami will be in a near-impossible situation.
It is such a terrible shame that the bad luck of Chris Bosh, and possibly Whiteside’s injury, may ultimately undermine these terrific performances and prevent the Heat from reaching their peak.
Whatever happens, it has been joyous to watch a future Hall of Famer produce performances like this once again, proving to anyone who doubted it, maybe even including his friend LeBron, that Dwyane Wade has certainly still got it.