Wade steps up by stepping aside — ESPN.com

Wade steps up by stepping aside

First title helped Dwyane Wade become a better leader; second one proves it

Updated: June 22, 2012, 9:42 AM ET
By Israel Gutierrez | ESPN.com

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade celebrated this championship like no other member of the Miami Heat’s Big Three could.

For him, there was some familiarity to it. He’d been there before, danced after the final horn before, soaked himself and teammates in champagne before and proudly hoisted that golden trophy before.

So as the seconds were ticking down on the clock Thursday night, with the game and the title well in hand, Wade put up two fingers on each hand and raised his eyebrows.

Wade has two championships now. It’s something only he and Udonis Haslem can say on this Heat team, but it’s nothing he’ll flaunt too boldly, so as not to take away from the sense of accomplishment felt by LeBron JamesChris Bosh and the rest of the first-time champions.

Besides, in a sense, this ride felt very much like a new experience for Wade.

Unlike 2006, when Wade, in his third season, was still surprising the league with his immense talents and almost playing without a care in the world.

He had veteran teammates everywhere he looked playing the roles of leaders, mentors and teachers then. He had zero pressure to win it all — certainly nothing compared to the albatross the 2011-12 Heat had hovering over them. The bumps on his road to that title included one difficult Game 7 loss to the Pistons in the conference finals the year before, but that’s about it.

This time around, Wade was in a different role on the floor, in a different place in life and playing for so much more than himself.

“So much more,” Wade said when asked how much more meaningful this championship is. “You know, I’ve been through a lot.”

On the court, Wade suffered a dislocated shoulder that essentially ended the Heat’s chance at repeating in 2007. He agonized through a miserable, injury-plagued season in which the Heat won 15 games. And right in the heart of his athletic prime, he could only carry a young Heat team to back-to-back first-round playoff exits.

When James and Bosh joined him in Miami, suddenly the pressure to succeed grew exponentially, from outside sources, of course, but also internally. He wanted this championship so badly for James and Bosh — almost more than he wanted it for himself.

And to get that done, he actually had to do less on the court than he’d been used to.

“He had to step aside to an MVP player that was really going to drive us in so many ways,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And yet, he can still impact the game in winning ways as well as anybody in the league. Offensively, he’s still making plays. He’s added new dimensions now, he’s a post threat.

“But to have the maturity to lead us with his voice, lead us on defense, still be the heartbeat of this team, still be the great talent that he was in 2006, but to drive us in a different way.

“It shows the evolution of a champion.”

Game 5 was a perfect example of how Wade successfully worked within the framework of a LeBron-dominated offense….

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