MIAMI — This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first time posing with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Six years ago, a young, brash, fearless and athletic player was an unstoppable force for four games, the Dallas Mavericks had no answer for his attacks to the rim, and it was he that pushed and pulled the Miami Heat to the franchise’s title.
It was a very different Wade that cradled the trophy this year. One that has a much deeper understanding of what it takes to reach this mountaintop.
“(I appreciate it) so much more,” Wade said. “You know, I’ve been through a lot. That 15-win season professionally hurt. Laughingstock of the league coming off a championship. But what I dealt with personally (a nasty divorce and custody battle with his ex-wife) was indescribable in a sense…
“I’m lucky to be put in the position I am. I’m going to enjoy this one way more than I enjoyed 2006. When you get there early, you say ‘oh man, we’re going to do this again next year.’ This is not a guarantee right here, man. You have to enjoy this. And we will do that.”
It was an honest, open, comfortable Wade who spoke still soaked in champagne. A mature Wade. He spoke about how important his family is to him now and how getting to experience this with his children makes it mean all he more. He talked about how even when this super team was put together they had lessons to learn.
“Man, this process is unbelievably hard, and I don’t care who you put on a team,” Wade said. “You know, two years ago, putting this team together, obviously, we expected it to be a little easier than it was. But we had to go through what we had to go through last year. We needed to…
“I went back last night and I watched Game 6 of the (2011) finals, and it was their time. They shots they was hitting was unbelievable. I just seen and I looked at it and said it wasn’t our time. And tonight it was our time.”
It was their time because Wade was mature enough to put his ego aside and not be a co-star — he let this be LeBron James’ team.
“This year I know I’m playing with the best player in the world, and that doesn’t take anything away from me at all,” Wade said.
The 24-year-old Wade would not have said that. Could not have done that. He had some growing up to do, but when he did he became a champion again.