Dwyane Wade on fans wanting to his ‘old self’ in All-Star Game
In the perfect ending life so rarely delivers, Dwyane Wade goes out an NBA champion for the fourth time — his career’s coronation grand marshaling a final parade down Biscayne Boulevard. Alas, that fairy-tale finish requires the Miami Heat winning it all, quite the troublesome sticking point for an around-.500 team that won’t be favored to survive the playoffs’ first round.
But Wade going out an all-star? That could happen, against odds. And should happen.
It doesn’t make logical sense: a player who doesn’t start for his own team, averaging 14 points off the bench, starting an All-Star Game.
But sometimes cold logic could use a heart,
It would be a sentimental nod, a ceremonial thing in the midst of Wade’s “Last Dance” farewell season.
It would unabashedly be a career achievement award, sort of a national group hug.
All good there, too
It might upset the purists, if there are actually any out there who take the NBA All-Star Game seriously and would think it a crime for Wade to start over someone ostensibly more deserving.
No problem with that, either.
Wade, a first-ballot Hall of Famer turning 37 in two weeks, deserves “thank you” in all its forms as basketball says its long goodbye.
All of this is in play because Wade turned up second in fan voting for Eastern Conference guards, trailing only Boston’s Kyrie Irving. (Voting ends at midnight Jan. 21). Fans alone picked the all-star starters. Until this year. Now fans have a 50 percent say and players and media 25 percent each. Then coaches pick the seven reserves from each conference.
Starter or reserve, Wade needs to be at the game in Charlotte, N.C. on Feb. 17.
“I just appreciate it,” he said Friday of the fan support. “I’m humbled by people taking the time out to want to see my old self in the all-star game.”
That support is beyond South Florida; it is nationwide. Wade is widely liked to a degree unusual for a player of that stature. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and so many other superstars are polarizing, with legions who love to hate them. Wade not so much.
“”People know and sense and root for people who do all the right things,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Wade situation gives us a chance to remember what all-star games are for — or should be about. They are showcases, fun events, made for fans.
I mean, NBA All-Star Games are, like, 187-175. You see more defense from the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. Nobody cares or remembers who wins. We want a continuous highlight reel. We want moments and memories.
Wade taking that curtain call, before his peers as much as before standing fans and national TV, would be a moment. Wade deserves it. So do fans. So does the sport.
(Oh, and how many of those peers in next month’s all-star game would be in the midst of having careers greater than Wade’s? You’d need one hand. And have fingers to spare).
All-star games should be about more than who’s having the best half-season in a particular year. They should also be a stage for farewell. I recall my boyhood hero Carl Yastrzemski making the baseball ASG as a reserve in 1983. He was 43, mostly a designated hitter by then. He had a mere two home runs and 20 RBI at the break.
Yaz struck out in his only at-bat. I recall fighting tears. It wasn’t the strikeout. It was the player who had been such a big part of my life, leaving me by degrees. It was time, disappearing.
Wade fans know that feeling this season.
There are 21 Heat home games left for Wade after Friday night’s. Then maybe a couple more in the playoffs?
There is one more all-star game left.
Make it happen, basketball.