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Dwyane Wade - A Career Retrospective Chapter 3: The First Championship

The third part of a continuing series on the career of the Miami Heat superstar guard.

Chris Graythen

In the 2005-2006 NBA basketball season, the Miami Heat would win their first NBA championship, but to say achieving such a high accolade was easy would be lying. This was a season filled with confusion and despair .

After such a great season prior to this year, these hurdles worried many basketball fans when they arose. Nevertheless, no one knew it was going to come to that, and high expectations surrounded the Miami Heat when the 2005-2006 season began. During the summer off-season the Heat made a multitude of trades to secure high profile veterans Antoine Walker, James Posey, as well as flashy playmaker Jason Williams in a massive thirteen-player trade that would become the largest in NBA history. At first glance, these players along with Wade and Shaquille O'Neal automatically seemed like a championship-caliber team on paper, and all was well until the second game of the season.

In that game, All-Star Shaquille O'Neal made horrific contact with then-Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and suffered a severe ankle sprain that would result in him missing the next 18 games. During Shaq's absence the Heat led by Wade went just 9-9, and head coach Stan Van Gundy stepped down due to personal reasons. This left Pat Riley resuming coaching responsibilities, and many things changing.

Despite retaining the second best record in the East this was a very shaky regular season for the Miami Heat. Nevertheless, it was during this time that Wade completed his transformation into one of the most proficient players in the league. At this point in his career Wade was genuinely feared by his competition, and rightfully so as he averaged 27.2 points, 6.7 assists, as well as 5.7 rebounds per game. Wade had developed into an offensive powerhouse and earned a second straight trip to the NBA All-Star game. However, this time he started and would help the East to a 122-120 victory with a put back shot off Allen Iverson's missed shot attempt. Dwyane was a star, but his team wasn't where it was supposed to be. Despite how hard he worked, and how well he performed it seemed at times the rest of the team couldn't capitalize, a theme that would manifest itself once again in later seasons.

The Heat seemed to be rejuvenated when the postseason arrived. However, Dwyane Wade's durability would be questioned once again as he battled a gruesome hip injury throughout the last three games of the first roundChicago Bulls series. Wade once again astounded the critics as he returned full-force to lead the Heat to victory. In the second round versus the New Jersey Nets, it was Vince Carter vs. Dwyane Wade as they both achieved career-high numbers at various points in the series, but it was Wade's will and determination that would lead to four straight victories that would eliminate the Nets in five games.

At this point in the playoffs it appeared as if the floodgates had opened and Wade was unstoppable. When they reached the next round against the Detroit Pistons that was the case for the first four games. In the sixth game of the series, Dwyane Wade fell victim to illness, and despite still delivering an impressive performance didn't look like himself going into his first NBA Finals.

This was the case, as the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks would take a two game lead off the bat. The Heat's morale seemed as if it was at an all-time low, and nobody knew how or if they were going to bounce back with the future looking bleak. However, in Shaq's biography "Shaq Un-Cut" he delivered an analysis on what Wade was doing to prepare for the coming games...

In Games 1 and 2 I had missed 14 out of my 16 free throws. I was ticked off and embarrassed about that, so the night before Game 3, when we were back in Miami, I went to the gym to work on it. It was late-about nine or ten o'clock-and I heard music, and some noise.

There's DWade working on his fadeaways, his floaters. I was impressed. It was the first time since Kobe that I saw a young fella really working at it. I was just shooting free throws, but he was going full speed. He had a kid there throwing the ball off the backboard at half court so he could take off in transition.

Wade turned the series around for us. He was fantastic. He just took over. In Game 3 he scored 42 points and dominated.

Page(s): 158, Shaq Uncut: My Story by Shaquille O'Neal

Dwyane Wade would go on to lead Miami to their first Finals victory delivering what ESPN's John Hollinger has referred to as the best individual Finals performance of all time. Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.7 steals propelling the Heat to the series victory and the Finals MVP trophy. This was the NBA Finals that sparked realistic discussion and comparisons of Wade to Michael Jordan, but in terms of numbers Wade had surpassed any of Jordan's stats in his six Finals victories.

Dwyane Wade's legacy had commenced after this victory, but it would a long time before he tasted the Final's victory champagne once again.