In case you missed it over the weekend, Chicago-area native Dwyane Wade announced he would return to the Miami Heat for one final season. It will be Wade's 16th season since being drafted 5th overall by Miami in 2003 (the Bulls were planning to draft him at No. 7), and his place in NBA history is secure.
Wade enters the 2018-19 season ranked 31st on the all-time scoring list with 22,082 points and could pass three or four more players before he's done. Among shooting guards, Wade ranks 7th all-time in scoring, but when you consider all of his accomplishments, the former Richards H.S. (Oak Lawn) star deserves to be included among the 20 greatest players in NBA history, and probably the 4th best shooting guard behind only Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.
In his retirement video, Wade talked about being an overlooked prospect in high school, not making the varsity at Richards until his junior year. Academic concerns reduced the number of Division I schools that were seriously recruiting Wade and he made a commitment to Marquette early in his senior year.
After sitting out one season as a Prop 48 recruit, Wade quickly established himself as one of the nation's elite guards, carrying Marquette to the Final Four in 2003. Still, concerns about his outside shooting ability and in-between size at 6-foot-3 had Wade initially projected to go somewhere between 10 and 15 in the NBA draft.
It was during the private workout process that Wade showed NBA talent evaluators just how special he could be at the pro level, and he began to fly up draft boards. Heat coach Pat Riley originally wanted to add a big man like Chris Kaman with the 5th pick, but after Wade wowed Heat officials in a workout, Riley was convinced to change his mind, ushering in a new era of winning basketball for the franchise.
Wade teamed with Shaquille O'Neal to bring Miami its first NBA championship in 2006. Wade was magnificent in the Finals against Dallas, averaging 34.7 points per game, to earn MVP honors.
Bulls fans know all too well what happened in 2010. Wade took two free agent meetings with the Bulls and by all accounts was close to committing to a Chicago homecoming. But after returning to Miami to think things over, Wade eventually decided to team up with good friends LeBron James and Chris Bosh in South Florida, a partnership that led to four straight Finals appearances and two more championships.
Wade did eventually put on a Bulls’ jersey for the 2016-2017 season, averaging 18.3 points during an uneven 41-41 season that ended with the Bulls blowing a 2-0 lead in an opening round playoff series against Boston. Wade eventually negotiated a buyout on the second year of the contract he signed with the Bulls, and played half a season with James in Cleveland before returning to his beloved Miami at the trade deadline in February.
Numbers alone don't tell the story of Wade's brilliance as an NBA player. He's always been adept at getting to the free throw line, and he's the top shot blocker among guards all-time. Wade willingly sacrificed his offensive game during the prime of his career to let James thrive in Miami, and he's also played point guard at times to showcase his skills as a facilitator.
Other shooting guards have scored more points than Wade, including Reggie Miller, Ray Allen and Clyde Drexler, but none of those players have won as much as Wade or had a bigger impact on the teams they played on.
Some Bulls fans were unhappy about the way Wade left his hometown team, basically taking about $38 million of the franchise's money for one season on the court. But the Bulls were committed to a rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler in the summer of 2017, and it made little sense for Wade to be taking away minutes from younger players the coaching staff needed to develop.
Wade seemed to be rejuvenated by returning to South Florida last season, and he'll be honored in every NBA city as he goes through his farewell tour this season. The Heat will play at the United Center on November 23 and January 19, and you can bet there will be a lot of friends, former teammates and members of the extended Wade family on hand for his final appearance.
The skinny, under-recruited kid from Robbins shocked the basketball world by developing into one of the greatest shooting guards of all-time. He's also a world-wide celebrity and business mogul. So, even though Wade didn’t wear the Bulls' uniform until he was past his prime, Chicago basketball fans should salute him for one of the more unlikely success stories the league has ever seen.
SOUTHEAST DIVISION PREVIEW
Wade figures to have few turn back the clock games in a limited role for the Heat this season, and Miami should be good enough to get back to the playoffs next spring as a 7 or 8 seed.
Here's how the Southeast should stack up this season.
1. Wizards: Unless free agent addition Dwight Howard continues his run of ruining every franchise he’s joined since leaving Orlando, Washington should be the class of the division. Led by All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have enough offensive firepower to win about 43-48 games this season.
Otto Porter is an underrated shooter at the small forward position, and the frontline of Porter, Markieff Morris and Howard should be pretty solid. Question is, can Washington get enough production from the bench unit of Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahinmi to stay afloat when the inevitable injuries hit?
2. Heat: Pat Riley went against the grain in the summer of 2017 by giving big contracts to hard-working, but non-star players like James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington instead of trying to free up cap space to chase a superstar. As a result, the Heat are capped out with a solid, but unspectacular roster.
Led by All-Star guard Goran Dragic, Waiters and underachieving center Hassan Whiteside, Miami should be good enough to hold on to a playoff position in the East, but if the Heat get off to a slow start, look for Riley to pursue trades to try to clean up the cap situation for a run at one of the elite free agents in the 2019 class.
3. Hornets: Michael Jordan decided to clean house after missing the playoffs last season, firing coach Steve Clifford and GM Rich Cho in favor of Spurs assistant James Borrego and fellow North Carolina alum Mitch Kupchak.
Problem is, the talent on the floor hasn't really been upgraded, although the Hornets did draft a couple intriguing prospects the last 2 years in Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. All-Star point guard Kemba Walker will be a free agent next summer, and wing players Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been mostly disappointing. Charlotte figures to post a mid-30's win total, leaving them a little short of playoff contention.
4. Magic: Another team looking for a fresh start, bringing Clifford in from Charlotte to try to improve the team's porous defense. Orlando added shot-blocking specialist Mo Bamba with the 5th pick in the draft, and power forward Aaron Gordon signed a near max deal to be the face of the franchise. But with ex-Bulls D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant currently penciled in to man the point guard position, it doesn't look like the Magic is ready to make a big jump this season.
5. Hawks: Safe to say, this looks like the worst roster in the league. Atlanta sports fans haven't exactly been passionate in support of this franchise, and outside of watching rookie Trae Young jack up three pointers, they don't figure to have a lot to cheer about this season. Young forwards John Collins and Taurean Prince are athletic players who will provide some high-flying highlights, but it's pretty obvious the biggest day on the Hawks' calendar will be the NBA draft lottery next May.
No one in the history of the NBA has averaged more points per game than Air Jordan.
His 30.12 points rank just above Wilt Chamberlain’s 30.07 mark, and those two are the only players in the game who have averaged more than 27.5 points per game.
Jordan averaged 20.0 points or more in all 15 of his NBA seasons, he led the league in scoring 10 times and averaged 30 or more points eight times, including seven straight seasons from 1987 to 1993. It’s hard to think that Jordan’s career mark will ever be topped.
Previous Countdown to Opening Night posts:
34. Wendell Carter
33. Scottie Pippen
32. Kris Dunn