His heart was beating too fast.
Too fast to concentrate, too fast to react and think right.
Too fast to be himself.
Most outta-body experiences are good ones. For the kid named Flash, this one was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. So was the moment.
His heart was beating at this ridiculous pace because of the pressure he'd put on himself. Putting himself - by simply having his name mentioned - above LeBron as the best in his class and above Kobe as best to ever play with Shaq had its down side. And in his first big, meaningful playoff game against a team that wasn't going to let him be himself, he fell down. Crash-landed on Earth. Became mortal. Became what he hadn't been since he entered the NBA: an over-hyped superstar.
But that's why they play seven games.
I jumped off the bandwagon. Not that I didn't appreciate or love what he was doing, but I refused to get caught up in the hype like so many others did.
Dwyane Wade is the best player in the NBA not named Steve Nash
He's better than Kobe or Penny ever were.
The Cavs made a mistake drafting LeBron over Wade.
He's the real next Jordan.
Before the series with Detroit began, I would say (and type), "Until he plays against a real squad & until D-Wade does what he did against the Nets and the Wizards in a big game, in the conference finals & until he drops 40 and wins a game against Tayshaun Prince & that's when I'll give him those props."
Until then, I'd recite and write, "D-Wade can't get all-world status. Not in my screenplay."
So when his outta-body performance hit in Game 1 (16 points on 7-for-25 shooting, two free throws), I was on the "I told y'all so" bandwagon. Knowing that even the greatest players fold the deeper they get into the playoffs the first time. Even $, I'd remind people, went 9-for-31 in his first ECF. The conference finals ain't for punks. The playoffs expose people.
And the Pistons ain't no joke.
And no one can achieve greatness, become all-world, attain pound-for-pound recognition in this game, until they conquer both: a 40-point game and winning one you are supposed to lose & in the playoffs. Better than Kobe and Penny? Even the legends watching from the Sixth Dimension knew better.
Then it happened. Somewhere after halftime in Game 2. His heartbeat slowed. To an abnormal pace. To its regular BPM. The blood in his veins returned to ice water. He was, once again, Frozone. "What's cooler than cool? Dwyane Wade!"
He had returned to self.
From the first two baskets of the fourth quarter, when he drove full court for the layup to the dunk that came immediately after that, the brotha we call Flash came into his own and welcomed the basketball world to his coming-out party. Yes, he had done things like this before. But he had never done it on this stage, in a game that (in his own words) was a "desperation" game with the world watching to see if he is who the world is saying he is.
In the end, he had 40. Him against the world. Enough to win a game against the world champs, enough to save the series, enough to get me back on his ridin'-on-24s H3 bandwagon.
Now & can he do it all over again? More than once? Three more times? To shake up the world?
Can he be the player we all saw the other night in G2? Or will Detroit force Wade back to the mortal we saw in G1?
Impatient, pressing, desperate, breathing hard, heart pounding?
Or patient, under control, confident, exhaling, dominating?
Is it possible, with Shaquille not being Shaq, for a 23-year-old, second-year, under-the-radar-until-now superstar to become the best basketball player alive?
Won't G3 answer all of these questions?
"The young fella had a good game tonight."
- Rasheed Wallace, after the Game 2 loss
He had his Jim Huber moment, the one that transported him from celebrity to icon. Converse looped his commercial like TNT was an SP1200. And after the game, at the podium, Sean John (he's Diddy's latest client/model) draped his frame. Fame came to him Wednesday night.
But what will happen Sunday night? That's where we are at right now with him. What will Wade do for the encore?
Which D-Wade is the real D-Wade?
USA Today labeled him the "comeback kid." He even said that every coach he ever had told him, "Every time I have a bad game to always come back with a good game."
If it were only that simple.
See, now Larry Brown knows. He has seen it up close. Dwyane (may have) made it personal. This is not the same "kid" that Brown had in Athens last summer, the one whose minutes he limited. This is a whole 'nother beast.
But then again, so is Brown.
If Wade playing God - excuse me, playing Jordan - means his team is going to lose, then watch how Cleveland's future president of basketball operations will put the Pistons in "make Shaq beat us" mode.
Just like in G1, D-Wade will see more defenders than Bobby Brown sees probation officers. Lindsey Hunter one possession, Roscoe (Wallace) the next, Rip two possessions later, and Tayshaun every other 24 seconds.
How will Flash adapt to their adaptation? Will he outplay himself or play himself? Will he be able to control his heart rate?
There is a difference between playing at full speed and playing efficient. There is a difference between playing hard and playing desperate. The latter is good for housewives, never basketball.
He said that 3:45 a.m. call from Big settled him down, allowed him to breathe again. Said "Coach" Riley talking to him, shooting extra after the shootaround, watching endless film, calmed him. Got him back to 120/80. Game 1, he said, "I already forgot that game." The Pistons are desperate to make him remember.
Doug Collins said it best during the broadcast, before D-Wade snapped off: "It's all a part of the learning process for Dwyane Wade."
Knowledge was born.
Wonder if Dwyane Wade learned the other night what he has to do to exceed his hype, to keep hypocritical columnists from jumping off the bandwagon, to make the team that was supposed to get swept win the series.
Wonder if he learned Wednesday night how good he really is.
Wonder if Sunday night, the world is 'bout to learn the same.
Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of NIKE Basketball," "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.