Drafted in 5th position by the Miami Heat in 2003, Dwyane Wade quickly put the Miami Heat back on the map. While the Floridians came out of a season of 25 wins and 2 seasons without playoffs, they were one of the good surprises of the 2003-04 fiscal year, 4th in the East and conference semi-finalists. In an interview with SLAM he returned to this first year in the NBA, where he and his team had exceeded expectations.
“When I got there, we sucked. The year before I was drafted Caron Butler could have been voted rookie of the year. I think he was drafted in 2nd or 3rd position (10th in fact) behind Love’e (Stoudemire) and Yao (Ming). They had won 25 games the season thatUdonis (Haslem) and I were coming. And we weren’t good at the start of the season. We started off with a 0-7 record. We were bad, but we kept on working, we kept believing in ourselves and we became a team, and we found solutions. Lamar Odom was in this team. He was the star of this team. Skip to My Lou (Rafer Alston) was the playmaker for this team. Eddie Jones was a veteran. There was Brian Grant too. We had guys who were good, but we weren’t that good collectively. But we finally started to become dominant at home. We started to beat home teams and then we learned to win a little away. We ended up going to the playoffs with the number 4 seed, thanks to a combination of circumstances at the very end of the season. Dedicated to Jalen Rose for putting on a shot in Milwaukee that got us the No. 4 seed because they beat the Bucks that night.
Then I remember the playoffs, I was like: ‘This is what I had always heard about, and this is where I always wanted to go!’ The playoffs are where you make a name for yourself. That’s where it all started, that’s where I started to lay the foundations. I remember approaching the playoffs saying to myself: ‘Yo, I’m going to give everything I have!’ The first series of playoffs was against Baron Davis (New Orleans Hornets). I had to face BD, when he was in his prime. We beat them in 7 games, then then we played Indiana, which at the time could very well have ended up as champions. Everyone thought the Pacers were going to be champions, but there was a fight in Detroit. They had a team that could go to the end. So pushing them to Game 6, and turning 20 points per game in this series, I thought I was going to be a good NBA player. I now knew what the playoffs were like, and we just had to work. ”
The young Wade quickly asserted himself as one of the best players of this vintage with the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and there was a special moment that clicked for him.
“I think what made me change my mind was after All-Star Weekend. I remember going to the All-Star and it was the first time I felt like I was the 5th wheel in the carriage. There it was only about Melo and Bron. They deserved it, but I was having a good year in Miami, I was excited, I was doing good things, but no one was talking about me. People were like, ‘Can you spell your no?’ I was there: ‘Again ?!’ I had been doing this since kindergarten. I remember coming back from that All-Star and becoming a different person. I said to Lamar: ‘you’re going to see a different me in the second half of the season.’ I started to gain confidence. I started playing 30-point games, then going back and forth, like 3 games in a row. I started to perform with regularity. And once I got that consistency, I knew I was going to be a really good player. Then then when I performed in the playoffs, against teams of this caliber and these talents – Ron Artest was defending on me in the second round, and I remember going over him, and he was hitting me, but I was getting to cash them. There I said to myself: ‘Oh yeah, there you are!’ From there my confidence kept growing. ”