For carrying Heat to title, Wade wins Finals MVP

Updated: June 21, 2006, 9:08 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Dwyane Wade grabbed the season's last rebound, throwing the ball high in the air as the clock ran out.

And with that, he let out a long scream, a shout of delight.

It was over. The Miami Heat were world champions.

Highest PPG, first NBA Finals
Year Player PPG
1967 Rick Barry 40.8
2001 Allen Iverson 35.6
2006 Dwyane Wade 34.7
1991 Michael Jordan 31.2
1962 Jerry West 31.1
1977 Julius Erving 30.3

"Man, it's one of the best feelings, next to my wife and my son, that I've ever had in my whole life," Wade said.

With a 36-point night, Wade led the Heat to a 95-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of his first title series. The Heat lost the first two games, then won the next four, riding Wade every step of the way.

"This team was built for this. This team was built for the playoffs," Wade said. "Not at one moment did one of us not believe in each other."

Shaquille O'Neal grabbed and hugged him. Heat owner Micky Arison wrapped his arms around him. And Wade simply raised one finger high.

He was the finals MVP, the best player in the playoffs, on the NBA's best team.

"Wade is the best player ever," O'Neal said before the trophy ceremony.

Let the comparisons to you-know-who continue.

"Dwyane has told me that he would not like me to speak of him in context with Michael Jordan anymore, out of respect of him," coach Pat Riley said Tuesday, about eight hours before tipoff. "He's a pretty good player himself. I think it's time for Dwyane to take on his own persona."

Four consecutive 35+ point games
NBA Finals
Year Player Team
2006 Dwyane Wade Miami
1993 Michael Jordan Chicago
1967 Rick Barry San Fran.
1962 Elgin Baylor* L.A. (Lakers)
* Five straight games

There are obvious parallels -- like how both Jordan and Wade both can make taking over a game look effortless.

Dallas jumped out to a 26-12 lead after nine minutes of Game 6; no surprise, since the Mavs were playing for their season and were boosted by a positively raucous environment in their home arena.

But the Heat had no reason to panic. Wade hadn't starting scoring yet.

His first basket came with 1:59 left in the first quarter. His second was a jumper over Jason Terry, who fouled Wade on the play. By quarter's end, Wade had seven points, the Heat were within seven points, and the arena began to quiet down.

In the second, Wade started what became an 18-6 run by the Heat with a jumper that started Miami's rally back from an 11-point deficit. Then in the third quarter, with the game tied at 53, Wade blocked Josh Howard's layup with 9:43 left. That sparked a 6-0 Miami run that bought the Heat a little more breathing room.

And in the fourth, with Miami clinging to a three-point lead, Wade still had all the right moves.

At one point, he had three Dallas defenders around him and the two others watching as he dribbled on the right wing. No one -- except Wade, that is -- noticed James Posey standing alone in the corner.

Just like an MVP would, Wade tossed him the ball, and Posey hit a 3-pointer.

"This is a team award," Wade said as he was handed the MVP trophy, "like it's a team championship."

In his 98th game of a grueling, trying season where the Heat switched personnel, switched coaches and were perceived as not good enough to win it all -- some doubters even picked Chicago over Miami in the first round -- there was enough spring in his step to deliver 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks.

His game is complete. So, too, is his resume.

"When you're playing for a championship," Wade said before the game, "that's all you need."

Moments before tipoff, amid deafening noise, Wade stood alone in front of the Heat bench, stretching. O'Neal leaned in for a quick word, and Wade nodded approval to whatever Shaq whispered.

"I knew the first time I saw him, he was something special," O'Neal said.

O'Neal has incessantly referred to Wade as "my favorite pupil." School's out for summer now, though.

Wade just graduated.

At 24, he's atop the basketball world.

"That's what these events do," Riley said. "They make genuine stars out of some players."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press