|Dwyane Wade is happily retired, but there are still a few pangs of jealousy coursing through his heart when he thinks about the NBA bubble and the league’s impending resumption in Orlando.|
In a Zoom interview with me on Tuesday, Wade revealed that for all the limitations on regular life that players are experiencing, there are also some benefits conferred by an environment devoid of external distractions.
Rather than the crowd-free reality of the NBA restart having a negative effect on playoff performance, the three-time world champion insisted that this unique hoops summer camp may spawn a series of iconic performances that will be remembered deep into the sport’s future. He expects to see rare magic most of all from his dear friend and former teammate, LeBron James.
“We will see him trying to reach for greatness,” Wade predicted. “Barring any injuries, I think he can achieve greatness. He’s gifted with unbelievable talent and will.
“I have a lot of friends in the bubble and it is strictly focused on basketball. Obviously when you get back you FaceTime your family, but when it comes to the actual sport, you are in the game and there’s none of the other outside things that come into play for these guys.”
|The ability to remove himself from those outside distractions and instead focus solely on basketball has become a pivotal point for James within the Orlando bubble. |
“For someone like LeBron, this is the most he hasn’t been busy. Nobody can get to him,” Wade added. “He can’t go out and do commercials, people can’t pull at him, so he can really feel just free and not worry about expectations of other people. It is focused on the purity of the sport and that’s the cool thing.”
The ultimate competitor, James finds himself at the helm of a team that is regarded as the favorite to win it all and lift the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy some time in October. According to FOX Bet, James and the Lakers are listed as co-favorites to win this year’s NBA title, along with the Milwaukee Bucks.
A reminder that James is getting no younger has come in the form of his gray-flecked beard, but Wade warned his pal’s rivals to expect the same kind of singular ferocity as usual once the games get going once more.
Wade also believes that rather than being tainted by the abnormality of the situation, this year’s title should be cherished for its uniqueness.
Yes, it is a weird season and an unprecedented way to decide a championship, yet in some ways the bubble is an escalated test. Physically, the players have had to hone into peak condition for a second time in a single season, and stay motivated during the shutdown.
Then there is the mental part, dealing with the stifling effect of COVID-19 and the human pressures that no one has been immune to. And finally, the eventual winner will have to come out of that with the level of determination and focus required to stave off the best basketball collectives on the planet.
“I feel whoever wins this championship, it definitely needs to be a gold star next to their name and not an asterisk sign,” Wade added. “Because no one has dealt with this. No one has dealt with what we are dealing with in the world and to be able to shut down for three months it is a mental and physical drag. It is draining.
“It is going to take a lot to go through this sprint now and try to come out healthy and on the other side as champions. No other player that has ever played the game can say that they did this. So this would be a special case and I look forward to seeing who does it, who becomes the first.”
The psychological part is why predicting what is going to happen is a fool’s errand. Nothing would truly be a surprise.
Wade will be enjoying the action as much as anyone. He has remained busy in retirement and recently collaborated with Budweiser to launch Bud Zero, the beer company’s offering into the growing zero alcohol beer space. Entrepreneurship among past and present NBA players continues to grow apace, and much in the mold of the late Kobe Bryant’s forays into product investment, Wade has taken a deep interest in the storytelling aspect of the launch.
“We always look for people we admire to either work with or draft inspiration from and Dwyane is the perfect example,” Monica Rustgi, Budweiser’s VP of marketing, told me.
As we wind down to the restart, Wade also finds himself wishing time to speed up, and take us closer to the matchup that sports is truly salivating for.
“Oh, Lakers vs. Clippers,” he said, with a wide grin, when asked what he was most looking forward to about basketball returning. “I think the whole world wants to see that matchup and just because I played the game, I am no different.
“Hopefully both teams get healthy and they meet at a certain time and we do get to see something that we will be talking about for 15 or 20 years. I hope we will be telling our grandkids about how great the performance was that these guys put on – and talk about the time, talk about everything we have dealt with at this time, and everything that these guys have stood for.”
Wade is not alone there. Anticipation for the season to restart is about to be satisfied. It is going to be great no matter what and the league has no shortage of stars who are desperate to prove their worth and take a crack at glory.
But let’s be real. As soon as things begin, a whole new waiting game starts, towards a series that is truly worth being patient for.
Here’s what others have said …
Reggie Miller, NBA Hall of Famer: “We are in uncharted waters. Twenty two teams in a bubble, isolated on a campus, in a dorm living together in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve got civil unrest in our country and players have left their families at home. Whoever wins this championship, with everything that’s going on in the world, they will have wanted it.”
Patrick Patterson, Los Angeles Clippers: “For myself, yeah, there was a little bit of hesitation, just due to a lot of uncertainty, family situations, wanting to be at home with my wife, and then on top of that, just with everything that’s been going on in the world. So do I feel safer in the bubble in that environment, or do I feel safer at home in the environment I can control? Do I trust the NBA to truly put us in the best situation and look out for our best interests? There was a little back-and-forth in the beginning, but, ultimately, having a chance to win a championship and being around my teammates again outweighed the no and was more of a factor toward the yes.”
Kyle Guy, Sacramento Kings: “It’s a lot of alone time, maybe more than most people are used to. The pressures of starting the season back up, basketball, Black Lives Matter movement, coronavirus, you know, there’s just a lot of factors going into this more than just basketball. So I think people can get lost in all the chaos.”