Constructing a Mythology: Wade’s Vow and His Legend

Commentary6 years ago5 min readGiancarlo Navas

Facing elimination in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, Miami fell to Boston in Game 5 despite heroics from Dwyane Wade. In that series, he averaged an inhuman 33 points, seven assists, six rebounds, a true shooting percentage of .650 with a PER of 29. And despite his efforts, the Heat could only muster one win against those Celtics.

In his postgame media session at TD Garden, Wade made a vow.

“This will be my last first-round exit for a while, I can tell you that.”

Wade’s declaration has rung true. Since that series, Miami has not lost in the first round, but this year they came closer than ever to losing. But it was Wade who saved them from elimination. It was Wade who willed his team by playing a near-perfect first half. And it was Wade, that when all seemed lost, dragged Miami to the finish line. He set them up for Game 7. This was his gift. It was him keeping his vow.

Miami sailed into Game 7 off the back of their franchise player. He brought them home and on the shores of Biscayne Bay while the Heat did a public dismantling of the Hornets for all of America to see.

 


So, in Miami over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about leadership in sports. Dan LeBatard of ESPN criticized Shaquille O’Neal publicly for his lack of it on and off the court.

This challenges our socially constructed perception of leadership skills in sports and some have begun to question, what defines it? This is where mythology-building is created. Where an athlete does the amazing and instills an inspiration born from a transcending of on-court excellence.

Where when those around you have doubt, they are given a reason to believe.

So, Dwyane Wade hit some threes when his team needed them most and Miami survived the onslaught of Kemba Walker. His greatness is once again validated. Facing elimination, a bad three-point shooter hit two big ones because his team needed him to. And with seconds left in the game, he hit a fadeaway jumper that shut the door on the Hornets and the purple shirt wearing heckler who was barking at Wade all night long.

And so we celebrate the greatness of Dwyane Wade because he hit some shots to save Miami’s dying season. Then in Game 7, when his teammates had it going, he stayed clear and let them bask in the glory. They were allowed to finish his conquest. His leadership once again on proud display.

“This will be my last first-round exit for a while, I can tell you that.”

A vow made six years ago, still rings true. A promise publically made by a superstar creates for these moments which reminds us why we love sports.

What I find interesting is the deconstruction of the mythology we have created around Wade. Because a few shots went in, we add to his existing legacy of winning, leadership and culture. Another chapter in his legend.

Leadership is a concept created by man. It is a social construction sculpted for centuries which we now use to define our sports stars.

Because Wade made shots we can call him a leader. Because Wade was excellent we can say his performance inspired others. It adds and feeds into a narrative that I, by the way, think is deserved. But the reason I watch sports is to experience humanity at its most pure. To see excellence and failure. To experience the construction of a legend, even though I know it’s just that.

Wade’s winning and championships speak for themselves. No construction about them. He’s succeeded at the highest level of professional basketball. What is constructed is the aura around him.

During the regular season, fans bickered over Wade coming off a screen and shooting a three to tie the game versus these same Hornets.

Now? It’s confetti and cheers.

Winning is in the margins and the room for error is minimal. Wade is one of the greatest basketball players I have ever seen play. He isn’t diminished by missing any of those shots. Nor in my eyes, should he be elevated in any way – rationally – for making them.

But that’s why this is all so fascinating. Sports elicits emotion that isn’t rational. We as people want to believe that something in Wade made him make those shots. That he did something only he could have done. That him and him alone could keep his vow to not lose in the first round. To create the story we all want to see. I am guilty, as well.

“This will be my last first-round exit for a while, I can tell you that.”

Damn right, you won’t. But then again, here I am. Feeding this mythology, that I don’t ever want to go away.