In the 2003-04 season, Dwyane Wade was one of the NBA’s top rookies.
He averaged 16.2 points and 4.5 assists per game and was named to the All-Rookie First Team while also providing some clutch moments in the playoffs as his Miami Heat got to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But major changes came in the summer of 2004 when the Heat traded for Shaquille O’Neal, then the game’s most dominant big man.
Although O’Neal was beginning the downside of his career, he immediately made Miami a championship contender, but he also did something off the court that can’t be measured by stats but had a major impact.
According to Wade, O’Neal gave him the confidence he needed to become a superstar.
"When Shaq says… you're going to be one of the greats, I don't need no more juice than that." @andre and @thekidet were joined by @DwyaneWade, a legendary player, succesful entrepreneur, and now team governor.
— Point Forward (@pointforward) August 26, 2022
“I ran into people that challenged me until probably like, when Shaq came, it really inserted that level of confidence in me that I could be one of the greats,” said Wade. “I needed somebody that was a great to be able to show me what it’s like to be great.”
Wade also said the big man told him he was one of the best two-guards in the game and that he was going to be “one of the greats,” and Wade gave O’Neal lots of credit for what he did in their first season together.
Wade Blossomed After O’Neal’s Arrival
When O’Neal was with the Los Angeles Lakers prior to joining the Heat, he had problems sharing the team’s spotlight with Kobe Bryant, and as he declined offensively, he refused to allow Bryant to supplant him as the team’s top scorer.
But right away in Miami, O’Neal allowed Wade to be “the man” and do his thing as a scorer.
The result was Wade exploding in his sophomore season, averaging 24.1 points per game while still finding the time to dish out 6.8 assists a contest.
His speed on the baseline was so startling that O’Neal nicknamed him “Flash.”
That year, Wade made his first of eight All-NBA teams, and the Heat won 59 games and came within one win of an appearance in the NBA Finals.
The following year, Wade improved again, this time putting up 27.2 points per game, and although O’neal continued to decline, the duo led Miami to its first NBA Finals appearance.
There, it got past the Dallas Mavericks in six games, as Wade averaged 34.7 points per game in the championship series and won the Finals MVP award.
— Misha Konygin (@gdfactoryclips) July 9, 2021
Although he dealt with injury issues the next couple of years, he continued to put up big numbers, and he even led the NBA in scoring in the 2008-09 season.
When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in July 2010, the Heat’s championship window reopened, and they won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
Although Wade turned his game down a bit to accommodate James, he still had a number of big games in both postseasons.
The 6-foot-4 guard ended up playing 16 seasons in the NBA, most of them with the Heat, and someday soon he will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.