Is he ranked too high or too low on ESPN's All-Time #NBArank?
All things considered, determining Dwyane Wade's place in this basketball landscape is probably more difficult than other future Hall of Famers still playing. Tim Duncan's place (wherever he lands) is solidified. Kobe Bryant's, even with the arguments that will occur once his place on this list is unveiled, is solidified. KG's, Dirk's, Truth's. Solidified. We all kind of have a clear understanding of where they should be and of their places in the history of the game.
But this dude right here? The 34-year-old Wade, who just was awarded NBA Player of The Week and will go down as one of the greatest player in the game's history to never win an MVP, is a whole different story. And he knows it, too.
Scoop: Now I know you don't like putting numbers on things, but who would you say are the greatest players to ever play this game?
Wade: Well, automatically I'm going to say MJ (Michael Jordan), not because that's what the rest of the world thinks or because that's the era I grew up in but because what he did was unprecedented from a basketball standpoint. So he's first.
But this is where for me it gets tricky. A lot of my basketball knowledge starts in the Jordan era. A lot of it before -- Larry Bird, Magic Johnson -- I mean, I look at them and I know what they did and I got a chance to watch and see a little bit of what they did, but I didn't get a chance to really live it, you know? The Bill Russells, the Wilt Chamberlains. So it's so hard for players to name those players that are the best when we're really just going off highlights, going off statistical numbers, going off what people say.
In a sense, I came up watching MJ, but when he got older I was watching Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and those guys. And you kinda lean on the players you watched and who you saw with your own two eyes.
Scoop: Do you feel that you belong in those types of conversations?
Wade: You know what ... yes. Now what conversation, I don't know. Do I feel I belong in the Michael Jordan conversation? Hell no! Maybe when I'm done with my career I can look at it as a whole and see, but I'm not going to say right now that I belong in the Jordan, Magic Johnson and those guys conversation.
But the players I grew up watching, the Iversons, the McGradys, those players that I grew up respecting so much and patterning my game after? Yeah, I belong in the conversation with those guys.
Scoop: Some would argue that had injuries not taken a toll on you, that you had a chance to be in that Jordan conversation. Maybe.
Wade: I'll say this: No one at the time had seen anyone do at my size what I was able to do in this game. Now Iverson did from the standpoint that he was smaller and he was a scorer, but if we are talking about a player that is able to score, able to block shots, able to pass, dribble, everything I've been able to do, you know, dunk on anybody like I'm 6-9, all of those things, no one was able to do that.
Now you see Russell Westbrook, who is 6-4 doing it. Then we saw Derrick Rose, when he was healthy doing it at 6-3. You start seeing these guys come in at my height and you start saying, "Wow what these guys are doing is amazing." But wasn't anyone doing that before me.
Scoop: I know Kobe has always been considered or referred to as the "next Mike" or the "the closest player to what Michael Jordan once was," and truth is, he is. But I've always felt that what you were doing early on was more Mike-like as far as playing was concerned. You were closer to being at that "Mike level" than Kobe was.
Wade: I appreciate that, really. But I've come out and said this, "I think Kobe Bryant is the Michael Jordan of our era." Me? I don't know. Whenever I hear Mike's and my name together, I run away from it, you know what I mean?
You never want to be compared to someone like that. That's that great. Like you don't even want to be mentioned in the same breath ...
Scoop: Wait, wait, wait ... OK, I get that you don't want to be mentioned in that same breath by us, but do you tell yourself that? When you are all alone, when you are trying to reach that certain level of greatness that ends up being your career, do you tell yourself that you want to be in that category and in that conversation?
Wade: When I'm done playing I would love to be in that category. Yes.
But I don't think about my place in history, that's in the future for me. All this right now is in the moment, man. Now once I'm done and I see that I gave everything that I could to this game, then let me see where I'm at, where I stack up. Right now, I'm still in the moment.
This year I'm writing a new chapter. I'm trying to write another chapter at 34 years old of someone that five years ago was supposed to be done. That's what I'm in the midst of, writing a new chapter for the book so I don't want to look at it that way.
Scoop: All of this brings me back to after Game 2 of the 2006 Finals. Remember you were sick in Games 1 and 2, and you didn't play that well and Dallas was thinking they kinda had you where they wanted you.
And I remember you grabbed me as I was walking down the corridor and put your arm around me and you said, "They don't even know what I have coming for them. I ain't sick anymore. I'm good now. Just watch."
Wade: Now that you brought that up, I remember that. Look, I knew. Because at that time in the NBA I felt that I was the best player in the game. That's the confidence that I had. What I brought to the game was as good as or better than anyone at that point.
Think about it -- and this is what is going on in my mind at the time: I'd just finished dominating a series against Detroit. I shot 50-something percent in a series versus the best defensive team in the league, a team that no one could score against, and I was shooting a high 50 percent from the field.
I just dominated that series and I had gotten sick in the last game of that series and it carried on into (the Finals). And I just felt at the time, I just knew that Dallas -- not saying anything bad against them -- didn't have anyone that could guard me one-on-one. And I knew once I started feeling better that I was going to take off. Now I had no idea that I was going to do those types of things.
(Editor's note: Wade scored 42 points in a Game 3 win, the first of four straight wins for the Heat to beat Dallas for their first NBA title. Wade won NBA Finals MVP after averaging 39.2 points over the final four games of the series.)
"I never thought I'd be Top 100 all time in the NBA. That's something I never dreamed of right then. So I've surpassed whatever number I'm going to be placed at." Dwyane Wade
Scoop: You played like the dude you just passed on the all-time scoring list, Bernard King, who I think should be ranked maybe up there with you on this all-time list.
Wade: See, I've never seen Bernard play! I've seen highlights and heard all of the stories, but I don't even know how his game was. I knew he was a scorer, but I don't know everything that he did on the court.
Scoop: Just talk to Isiah (Thomas) about him. He'll tell you.
Wade: Now there's someone that doesn't get enough credit. Where is he on the list? I have so much respect for him. When people ask me about Chicago, I'm always going to say Isiah is the best player to ever come out of Chicago. I'm always going to say that.
He and I have had conversations and he'll say, "D-Wade, you are the best to ever come out," and I'll always disagree. Obviously there's a respect factor, but I know I wouldn't be where I'm at without Isiah Thomas, but people forget how great Isiah was. I mean, just how great he really, really was. He was ridiculous. Unbelievable.
Scoop: I think I'm going to have to agree. No disrespect to you at all, but Zeke was amazing. Still holds the title as best ever out of Chi. Six more inches and he'd been in the Magic/Bird/Michael conversation.
Wade: And he only played like 11 years, right? He got injured pretty early. [Editor's note: Isiah played 13 years.]
Scoop: I'm glad you mentioned that, I want to get back to that and you. What impact do you feel your injuries have had on your career and the player you had the possibility of becoming?
Wade: Injuries just take away from your game. Like when you have multiple injuries like I have, they take away from what people will say made you special. I've had three knee surgeries, I've had shoulder surgery. Knee surgeries take away from your explosiveness and many other things.
Scoop: Does that bother you? Does it eat at you? Are you sometimes saying, "Damn, if I hadn't had this injury I could have ..."
Wade: Oh man, hell yeah! I honestly do. I looked at Michael Jordan's career and LeBron's career. Now Kobe's career is still amazing with all of the injuries he's had, but I look at Jordan and LeBron and I'm like, they didn't have to deal with many injuries.
And if you have the talent like those guys have, when you don't have to deal with any major injury, you can do amazing things. So yeah, I look at it like: If I didn't have those injuries, if I was equally as healthy throughout my career as say LeBron's been, my career would probably be equally as great.
But because of injuries -- which a lot of players have, Tracy McGrady for one; and no one knows what would have happened with Derrick Rose had he not gotten injured; I mean, Russell Westbrook may be the only one that got injured the way that he did and came back like he never got hurt -- I'll never know. But 85 percent of the league aren't going to be healthy their whole career, so you just look at it as some players just get lucky.
Scoop: Even with the injuries, looking back, any regrets? Would you change anything about how your career played out?
Wade: Naw, man. My career, I didn't plan any of this. This has surpassed any of my wildest dreams of what I thought my basketball career would be like when I picked up that basketball at the age of 5. Everything is a cherry on top with whipped cream. I'm literally living a dream so I can't be mad at anything that's happened because I didn't expect anything to be close to this.
Scoop: It's funny how in your mind when you are growing up you always say that you want to be the best, then when it happens to happen to you it's still unexpected. It's still surprising.
Wade: Yeah! Like I look at my sons now and my nephew and I remember being their age, I remember being 14 and wanting to be in the NBA and be the best player or whatever, and I said that.
Now I look at them and they want to be what I've become. Their goal in life in basketball is to be one of the greats! I've become one of those! It's crazy!
Scoop: What's crazy is how you put all of the work in for it to happen, to be recognized and looked at as one of the greatest, and when it happens it's like it's not supposed to happen. To the point where you almost don't believe it.
Wade: Yeah. It's kinda like for me ... it's different from LeBron. Everybody knew LeBron had it! He had it, it was just about him doing it. No one knew I had it. I wasn't on the radar to have it. I wasn't born 6-9, 260 (pounds), gifted, you know what I mean? No one looked at me and said, "This guy has it." So for me it's still crazy the things that have happened.
I mean, whenever the rankings come out, wherever I'm at, understand I never thought I'd be Top 100 all time in the NBA. That's something I never dreamed of right then. So I've surpassed whatever number I'm going to be placed at.
You know, I hear some fans of mine getting mad because they've seen me on (other) lists, ranked No. 3 or No. 4 or fifth in the best shooting guards all time. And I'm like, "Do you all understand what number they said that I am?"
Scoop: You mentioned LeBron, in the context of all of us knowing that he was "it" early on. But to me it has to be hard as hell to get labeled great at such an early age and not mess that up. I wonder, if it's harder to not mess that up, to live up to and pass those expectations or come up the way you did, grinding and surpass expectations that weren't even there?
Wade: That's a great question. Man. You know what that's like? That's like a debate over who's the best rapper: 2Pac or Biggie? I don't think anyone will ever have the answer to that because you can make arguments both ways. I'm telling you, that can be a barbershop conversation. That can be an argument all day.
Scoop: I'm looking at Kobe and seeing how he's been respected but never really loved in his career until now. Do you think about how your career is going to end?
Wade: I mean, I don't think it's going to end like his. I don't think it's gonna be a lovefest around the league. But I think when it's all said and done, and I've always said this, I think I will be appreciated more once I'm not playing.
You know what, let me tell you, now that I'm 34 and I'm healthy now for the first time in a while, I think people watching me go through a couple of injury-plagued seasons and watching me be healthy, I think they'll appreciate the player I was and appreciate the player that I am right now. I am seeing a little bit more love and appreciation now that they've seen the difference of when I was in my prime and healthy and now being healthy again and able to do some of the things that they've come to love from a different perspective.
Scoop: But you don't have an end game in mind. Wait, do you?
Wade: Yes, I have an end game in mind. I do have one.
Scoop: Sharing it or not sharing?
Wade: Not sharing, of course. But I think you have to plan for the end. You have to plan for it. I mean, at this point, I would be a fool not to plan for a possible ending. Who knows if it's going to be right or wrong, but I have to plan for whatever is going to be the possibility of when I feel that I'm ready to walk away from this game. In a perfect world, I'm able to walk out of the door and say this is it for me and I'm not pushed out because of injuries or anything like that. In a perfect world, I can walk off in the end.