Dirk Nowitzki must live rent free in Dwyane Wade’s subconscious. In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Wade took what was most certainly a parting shot at Dirk:
Wade wasn’t interested in playing “15 minutes a game and not [making] an impact. I don’t want to be the guy to sit on the bench and the fans always have to chant, ‘We want Wade.’ ”
Of course, it’s hard to tell if the words were pulled out of context (my take: they weren’t) in this sprawling, overly long love letter to a guy in Wade who continually downplays the attention he so clearly needs to validate his career.
The interview is really a delightfully, self-unaware look through rose colored glasses about a player who is important to NBA history, but clearly concerned about his legacy. His Kobe-lite performance this season, supported by a hashtag and what one can only assume will be a Ken Burns-length documentary no one will see, has had some remarkable moments on the court.
But the try-hard jersey swaps paired with the barrage of interviews and awe-shucks bulls*** should be too much for any non-Heat diehard. Throwing shade at Dirk on the way out is just another reminder of how small and insignificant Wade must actually feel. A player who is this good and this important wouldn’t have to keep telling us so.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki has gone about this season as quietly as he could, first recovering from an ankle injury, then finding a way back into some semblance of game shape. It’s been challenging as often as it’s been amazing, it’s been ugly as well. Yet the cheers for Dirk on the road, the insertion of Dirk into All-Star Weekend, all of those things came in the most organic way possible: because people love Dirk. Fans (well, not Dallas fans) love Wade as well, but he’s clearly wanting the same adulation on his way out.
Which would be fine if he could avoid taking shots at our guy on his way out the door.
What’s all the more maddening is we thought we were past all this. Everyone in the media loves a good redemption arc and Wade provided one. After the comments made by Wade in 2007 questioning Dirk’s leadership and the embarrassing video of Wade and LeBron mocking him in the Finals — one might assume those slights would result in a permanent wedge. But time and old age tend to provide perspective, and it had seemed this season that both at least agree that other matters in their respective careers are more important.
Yet, with both Dallas games behind him and a cute photo op in the books, Wade must’ve felt safe to get off shots against a better player who was more important to the game of basketball. After all, it must pain Wade that Dirk stayed his entire career in one place, whereas Wade chased the all-mighty dollar in Chicago before playing a half season in Cleveland — where he was LeBron’s sidekick AGAIN before they traded him since he was too heavy and not playing well.
In the end, perhaps it’s best that we all aren’t friends. I love hating Wade.
And if Dirk retires this season as well, when he gives his speech after Wade in their Hall of Fame inductions, I’m sure Dirk will find a classy way to remind everyone that he’s both the better player and better man.