Wednesday , Jun , 21 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Changing of the Guard: Wade is finals MVP

Dallas, TX (Sports Network) – At 7-foot-1 and 330-pounds with a gregarious
personality, Shaquille O’Neal is larger than life. When the “Big Aristotle”
relocated to South Beach, it was with the expressed intention of being
“Batman” to Dwyane Wade’s “Robin”.

But, make no mistake about it — there is only one superhero in Miami and it’s
not the big guy.

Miami received a far different player than the one that dominated the league
in Los Angeles. The current version of O’Neal is just a shell of his former
self. A shell that has trouble showing on the pick-and-roll and nearly
crippled the Heat during the NBA Finals with an inability to make free throws
in key situations.

O’Neal managed just nine points in 12 rebounds during the final game as he
struggled with foul trouble throughout.

If you add in a supporting cast full of aging, former stars like Antoine
Walker, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning, the stark reality was clear.

Miami had no business winning its first NBA championship.

Of course, that didn’t take into account the game’s ultimate finisher, Wade.
Not since Michael Jordan has the NBA had a player who, not only wants the
ball in big situations, but craves it.

Most observers feel Dallas lost this series and the NBA championship because
they had no answer for Wade on the defensive end.

While that’s true, the real problem in North Texas was the Mavs inability to
field a player that longed to make a play down the stretch like Wade.

The former Marquette star willed Miami to four straight wins as the Heat
became only the third team in NBA history to come back from a 2-0 deficit to
win the title.

They are the first team to do it since the league went to a dubious 2-3-2
format that seems to heavily favor the home team. And, it was Wade and not
Shaq that was the clear choice for the MVP of the series.

After averaging just 25.5 points in losses during the first two games in the
series, Wade exploded for 157 points in four consecutive wins, including a
franchise playoff record 43 points in a 101-100 overtime thriller win in Game
5 on Sunday.

Almost poetically Wade grabbed the season’s final rebound, heaving the ball
in the air as time ran out on the Mavericks.

O’Neal quickly hugged him and thanked him for carrying him to a fourth world
title.

“Wade is the best player ever,” O’Neal said.

While overstated, Wade was clearly the best player in the finals.

MIA