In 2010, Bleacher Report listed “The Top Ten Players With Killer Instinct”:
10. Brandon Roy
9. Manu Ginobili
8. Kevin Durant
7. Steve Nash
6. Tim Duncan
5. Rajon Rondo
4. Paul Pierce
3. Kevin Garnett
2. Dwyane Wade
1. Kobe Bryant
After giving credit to legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Wade placed second only to Bryant. LeBron James is notably absent in 2010, as he needed tutelage with the Miami Heat to learn the essence of winning it all.
In the Draft of 2003, Wade fell to fifth place after teams selected Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh ahead of him. Pat Riley had the vision to trade for Shaquille O'Neal as a role-model and mentor for the young phenom on what it takes to remain the last man standing at the end of the season. Wade proved a quick study on learning the winning culture, and later helped bring aboard two other members from his draft class to replicate the success of 2006.
The Heat weren't so fortunate when they chose Dexter Pittman ahead of Hassan Whiteside in 2010 and Michael Beasley instead of Russell Westbrook in 2008. To be fair, Michael Jordan was the third selection in 1984, after Akeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie. Today the choice of Bowie seems ludicrous, but at that time he filled a need for Jack Ramsey’s Portland Trail Blazers, who obtained the number two pick via an Indiana Pacers trade. By the way, Bowie lied to pass his physical exam by the Blazers.
“In retrospect it will surprise some to know that just as little mystery surrounded Portland's selection at #2. Sports Talk Radio was in its infancy in '84. Among the limited number of on-air pundits discussion revolved more around the slight possibility of Houston passing on Olajuwon than around names like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley. People knew of those smaller players but they weren't anywhere on Portland's radar. Instead hosts, callers, and the casual fan on the street focused on 7'1" Kentucky center Sam Bowie. Experts opined that the Blazers were lucky to be drafting in a year when two prime-time centers were available.”
“If you've read any of our previous historical retrospectives you'll immediately grasp how Bowie's selection sailed with the prevailing winds in the Rose City. What were the two laments of Blazer fans at this exact moment?”
"We want change!"
"If only we had a center we could contend!"
“Bowie's selection appeared to address them both.”
In a rebuke to the importance of having killer mentality, “Debunking the myth of the 'killer mentality' in the NBA Finals” notes the importance of assembling an outstanding team around an All-Star talent.
“Overall, we have three periods: the first seven years where Jordan was at the peak of his performance but didn't win anything, the second eight years where he was statistically not quite as good but won six championships, and the last phase of his career where he didn't win anything and didn't have a great amount of influence over his team.”
“I think some players take their game far more seriously than others, and the extra kick they can get in clutch situations is indicative of more practice time, more focus and more respect for the game in general, but I wouldn't call that a phenomenon.”
Last season the Heat gave Dion Waiters and James Johnson their needed education in winning. Much as James and Jordan didn't get rings until their late 20's, Waiters and Johnson could be late bloomers who have found their identity in Miami. Just because their previous employers misused them, doesn't mean they don't have the same innate talent for continued success this coming season in Miami.
The Heat's 14th pick may not have the abundance of talent as the top-five ones, but the prospect must have the focus and respect for the game that produces wins. Competing against teenagers in the AAU doesn't give a complete picture on whether the prospect has what's necessary to reach the NBA Finals, where grown men compete at the highest and most intense level.
History shows selecting a player in the draft who can defeat the adults in the room is no easy task for anyone to accomplish on a consistent basis. Especially when so many players are only a year or two removed from high-school. Hopefully the Heat will be as successful as in 2003, when they picked Wade over Chris Kaman.