Shaq May Be Superman, but Wade Is Wonder Boy

By Mike Wise
Monday, June 19, 2006


This was Dirk Nowitzki's night of redemption, the night he made an incredible fallaway with 9.1 seconds left to give Dallas the lead and, surely, the game.

Until Dwyane Wade stole it.

This was the night Avery Johnson was going to be called a genius rather than the nutty professor, harboring his team members in a Fort Lauderdale hotel, making them room and bond together before their biggest game of the year.

Wade swiped that notion, too.

This was the night Dallas would emerge from its psychological funk in South Florida and go home needing one victory to claim the franchise's first championship.

But Wade could not let this emotionally wounded squad even have that pleasure.

"He's a winner," Pat Riley said simply, moments after Wade sank two clutch free throws with less than two seconds left and put the franchise Riley built one victory away from bedlam. "That's all you can say, he's just a winner."

And that rare young player who waits until the last possible moment to steal the competitive souls of his peers.

As Game 5s go, this one belongs next to Robert Horry quieting suburban Detroit with a three-point heave a year ago and Michael Jordan overcoming food poisoning and the Jazz in Utah in 1997. As Game 5s go, Dwyane Wade hitting two foul shots with 1.9 seconds left, willing Miami past Dallas in overtime, 101-100, goes down as one of the most pulsating Finals thrillers of all time.

I don't know if 43 points and some of those gravity-defying jumpers in the final minutes of regulation and overtime make you the greatest player in the game today. But I do know that no one else in pro basketball is playing this calm and serene and sensational in the Finals, making long shots with bodies draped all over him and his team creatively spent, in need of any semblance of offense.

One of the oft-repeated stories at the NBA Finals has Pat Riley challenging Wade to become the first star from that great 2003 draft class to capture a title, a feat LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh won't pull off for a while.

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