It's the day after LeBron James' historic triumph in the 2016 NBA Finals, and Dwyane Wade is thrilled for him. Not quite as thrilled as when he won two rings himself with the King—and stacked up four consecutive Finals appearances—in the Big Three days at the Miami Heat, but that was always a tall order. He jumps into discussions of iconic Finals performances and decisive turning points, and he knows what he's talking about. After all, he's engineered a few of his own, some from even before the greatest player of this generation joined him in South Beach. Needless to say, it was a good time to get him on the phone.
It was also good timing because Wade has plenty going on off the court. ESPN announced Tuesday that he will be the cover star of ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue," an annual homage to muscular frames and high-octane athleticism. That move, along with the launch of his new underwear line, Wade X Naked, point to a new phase of being for a man who, almost incomprehensibly, only recently became truly comfortable with his body. He discussed his transformation in that regard with Esquire, as well as the conclusion of a remarkable NBA season.
So how about that game last night?
It was incredible. I'm glad I was there to be able to experience it as a fan of the game. Obviously the outcome for LeBron is what I was hoping for as a friend. So it was great.
I was going to say, you must be so excited for your buddy LeBron after that.
I was. I mean, I've obviously seen him win championships before, but I know what this one meant, you know, to the state and the city that he was raised in, and that he obviously got drafted to. I watched that 30 for 30, "Believeland," so I understand what it meant to Cleveland.
What do you think of that block he had on Andre Iguodala, had you ever seen anything like that?
It was amazing, first of all. Do you remember the Tayshaun Prince block on Reggie Miller? It was in 2004, and it was the big turning point of the game. Everyone talked about it. It was another block that was very similar, that was like a turning point. It was that moment. I was watching with a lot of Warriors fans and Cleveland fans, and I remember seeing Iguodala go to the basket. I wasn't even looking at LeBron—I knew he was a chase-down blocker, but I wasn't even watching him. And he just came out of nowhere, man. I remember my reaction to it, because I try to watch my reactions at these games because I know people are looking at me as well. But I just went into total fan mode. I couldn't believe it.
It was a turning point, you said. Do you think his defense was the catalyst in those last few games and do you think that's sort of a feature of this game?
I think it was a combination of it all. You can talk about what he did block-wise, something I think we saw him do last year, but this year he was way more explosive. He was really doing everything it took to win. Obviously, he led the Finals in every sense. That's what he does. That's the kind of player he is.
What allows him to raise his level in those last three games, when it matters most?
You have to have the ability. Some people can only go so high. Obviously he's been blessed with a great amount of ability and talent. But mentally, that's what separates the great from the pack. Your mental ability, your mental strength, to be able to focus in the moments where it's the loudest. To be able to come through—and you can come through in so many different ways. People talk about, "Oh, he has to make a shot." Yeah, for some players that's their thing. Then there are some players who come out of nowhere and block a shot and save the game. Some players make a pass to someone who makes the shot. There's so many ways you can come through for your team, but the mental strength to be able to do it in those moments—I can't even explain it. If you haven't played the sport, I don't even know if you could even understand my explanation for it.
You had that kind of performance in 2006, I remember, when you got to the free-throw line a ridiculous number of times. Would you credit those things for what you were able to accomplish?
Today is actually the 10-year anniversary of our organization's first championship, June 20. And I just put out a message on Instagram, because they're actually doing this story on how the game was one the most controversial Finals of all time. And rightly so—I mean, it was very controversial.
Were there calls in the series that I could've played through? Absolutely. Are there calls that all of us as as athletes get in games that we could've played through? Absolutely. Did I put my head down and attack every play? Absolutely. So what I did was put pressure on the defense, and I put the pressure on the refs to make the call—or not make it. But my mentality at the time, at 24 years old, was I'm going every time, and I'm either going to dunk on you, I'm going to score, or you're gonna put me on the ground. Either way, I'm coming. And I think I got the benefit of that, because I was aggressive. I wasn't shooting too many jump shots—I was mixing in, but I was the aggressor in the series, and not a lot of guys on my team were really penetrating.
So it's like, "Dwyane shot a lot of free throws." Well, who else was shooting free throws? We had a lot of guys who shot jump shots. It was nothing like todays game—jump shooters didn't get a lot of fouls back then. The rules were totally different. So who else was gonna shoot free throws, besides Shaq and I? So you look at the numbers and say, "Oh, he shot 97 free throws in the Finals. But I was attacking that much, and no one else on my team really was.
So you're on the athlete roster for the ESPN Body Issue. What's the "Body Issue" all about to you?
For me, it's just overcoming my insecurities. And I would say courage—just having the courage to do it. I've said no to them probably since the "Body Issue" was first assembled. At 34 years old, it's just nice of them to call me and ask me to be on it again. It's about overcoming my insecurities, but one way to express that is to show it. I was very uncomfortable with the photo shoot the whole time I was going it, and even after. And I'll be uncomfortable the day it comes out. But it was gratifying for me deep down inside to be that kid from Chicago and overcome that. It's bigger than a picture in a magazine.
Did you think, coming to the playoffs that anyone could beat that warriors team? And which did you think was better, that finals, or that Western Conference Finals that was also pretty wild?
Yeah, I think anyone can be beaten. How you play someone in the regular season is different from how you play someone in a seven game series. There are a lot of variables that go into it. Just thinking about '06, when we won, we hadn't beat Dallas the whole regular season. They beat us the first two games very convincingly, and we had to find a way. We eventually got one win, we came back from 13 down, so we put a little doubt in their mind. And then the next game we blew them out and put a little more doubt in their mind. So in a playoff series, when you play on a team over and over again, all of that matters.
So no question I thought Golden State could be beaten, but I knew it would be a tough task, especially with their home court advantage. I'm not going to sit here and say I knew Cleveland would come back from 3-1 down—I didn't know. The only thing I knew was that LeBron was going to do everything possible for his body to make sure he did it. And he did.
Date Posted: Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 , Total Page Views: 2578
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