Sunday, November 23, 2008

There have been some great writers who have had the spirit, passion and patience to concentrate a portion of their work on sports. This is not to say that they are actually "sports writers." I am not a fan of Norman Mailer's work nor David Foster Wallace's. However, I will concede that both were talented writers who offered their own unique stance on literature and, perhaps on a certain day -but never one of mine - the world. In any case, both knew how to write about sports; Mailer about boxing, Foster Wallace about tennis. My game is basketball and I always thought it would be an interesting addition onto any literary career that I may attain to also have side work that followed the most entertaining basketball player alive and perhaps one of the ten best of all time: Dwayne Wade.

This 2008-2009 season will stand out not simply because of the overall greatness we will see in the league, or because of the interesting storylines, the heightened level of competitiveness in each game, or because of the incredible repeat Finals we will see between the Lakers and Celtics, which will go 7 games this year and feature at least one punch and perhaps Kevin Garnett's head exploding after he blocks an Andrew Bynum hook shot - the 2008-2009 will stand out ultimately as Dwayne Wade's first MVP season and the first "redemption" season from one player since M.J. destroyed every player and team in the league in the '95-'96 season when the Bulls went 72-10 and Jordan had to make even the lowest bench player - and the fan sitting in the worst seats in the stadium - know who was the best player in the NBA and of all time after he let Nick Anderson steal the ball from him in crunch time in the '95 playoffs against the Orlando Magic.

I am writing this listening to "Get on the Right Thing" by Paul McCartney and after I woke up to read that Dwayne Wade posted a line of 38, 4 and 8 - with the flu - against the Pacers. This is simply the latest in a string of impressive games that have seen him trail Lebron James as the scoring leader by only a sliver as well as show-off an impressive passing ability and an improved three point shot. After two years interrupted by injuries and comparisons of a career dampened by injuries too early a la Penny Hardaway, Dwayne Wade is back and he is serving notice to the entire league that he is serious and better than Lebron James. Whereas James can be painfully lazy with his passing in stretches and can rely too much on the three - later day Kobe - Wade never bores, he always attacks and, with the addition of his new shooting range - has become an even greater threat on the offensive end. For some reason, there has been a hesitation - perhaps because of injury, although Jordan was injured almost the entire 1986 season - to place Dwayne Wade at the top of the NBA ranks. He has a greater variety and hunger for success than Carmelo Anthony, his game is much more polished than Lebron's, and he will always salivate in the crunch time, where Kobe - and the cynicism of his competitiveness and desire to BE Michael Jordan - shies away when he sees the game cannot be won (Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs agains the Suns in 2006).

The 2008-2009 version of Dwyane Wade reminds a fan of the NBA from the 80's and 90's. That was an era where the greatest players would disappear over the summer and come back the next season with a new weapon - Jordan and the '96-'98 fadeaway, Bird and the '86 left hand, Olajuwon and the polish of the mid-90's Dream Shake (See 1995). This season obviously has a lot to play out, however we are seeing the Dwayne Wade Three-Pointer as a new weapon to add to the list. The addition does not seem as drastic as the three mentioned above, but for a player who relied so much on penetration and contact, the honing of a three point shot to open up the rest of his game is extremely significant.

Wade's defense has improved also. In Beijing this summer, Wade was content to play a role on the gold medal team. Kobe's reinvention had taken prominence since Wade's injuries and the whole world was ready to make Lebron the basketball Obama (especially if he comes to New York - you want basketball hype, you'll get it). So, Wade dug in and played clinical defense, setting the pace for the entire team and helping him to easy transition points which allowed him to average the most points per minute of any player on the team. Now that the season has begun, Wade has been just as imposing on the defensive end.

There will be more written about Dwayne Wade's "comeback" by sports writers this year. However, Wade never went anywhere. He has remained the best basketball player alive and one of the most entertaining players of all-time, despite injuries and lack of media attention. When one watches Wade fly through the lane, there is no imposing physical strangeness that comes with a Lebron dunk, there is only grace, hang and then simple execution at the rim over whoever has tried to stop the inevitable - it is the closest we have come to the Michael Jordan we have been looking for for years and I for one was never looking for another saviour - I was just looking for another player to enjoy watching wholeheartedly.

Just watch for yourself:

On the literary side of things, have a look at this poem from a few years ago:

Creaking Door

A creaking wooden door,
To an ancient backyard,
The sweltering birds chirp
Into the dizzying heat
While the chill of a pool
Buzzes as the oasis of my youth.

Red bricks meet green grass,
The thickets block off brown
Wood that covers the neighbors’
Home and their mail retrieval.
Meanwhile I stretch to the edge
And dip my fingers in to test.

Artificial water falls off each tip,
Dropping slowly onto the scorched brick.
My feet are calloused from concrete,
So I dip them in too,
But as I do the redness cracks
And splashes, and sinks, and drowns.

So I back away and run,
Slamming the door behind me,
Allowing it to creak and
Watch the forgotten swim in
The azure water reflecting the sky,
As I disappear down the road.

Black pavement is hot, same as
The sand that I arrive at past
Noon on the outskirts of town.
My callouses fail, as feet do,
And I seek refuge in the
Repeating waves of the bay.

I stand in the water with children
And acquaintances, and see their
Umbrellas dug into the shore.
Bikinis and sunglasses and coolers
All come into sight and bring
The butterflies in my stomach.

A deep perspiration drips on my forehead,
And I run along the sandbar
To test its durability and length,
But ultimately with ulterior motives;
To escape the cries and smiles
And embraces that appear onshore.

Standing on the far reaches of
The gift from low-tide, gentle waves
Rock against my ankles and remind
Me of all that I love
And have loved, even those things
Served with a grain of salt.

Boats appear out beneath the sun,
While rocking on the passive waves,
And there I am on board,
Close to the bow of one vessel,
Moving outward into the open arms
Of the Atlantic Ocean which carries
With it all I need,
Until that too becomes a creaking door.

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