MIAMI (AP) — More than a little bit has changed since Dwyane Wade’s first taste of an NBA championship.
He became a father for the second time. He played for the worst team in the league. He won an Olympic gold medal. He got divorced. He convinced LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in Miami. He dealt with an ugly custody fight that took years and in some ways continues today. He wrote a book this year. He lost a championship series last year.
A whirlwind, by any measure.
“What I dealt with personally,” Wade said, “was indescribable in a sense.”
So was the feeling he had Thursday night — as a champion for the second time.
Wade and the Miami Heat are back atop the NBA world. He scored 20 points, James had a triple-double and the Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, winning the title in five games. James left with the MVP trophy this time, six years later after it was Wade with it in Dallas. And Wade couldn’t have been happier about the arrangement.
“Two years ago, putting this team together, obviously we all expected it to be a little easier than it was,” Wade said. “But we had to go through what we had to go through last year. We needed to. And as much as it hurt, we had to go through that pain and that suffering. To get to this point of this season and the rest of our careers together, we’ll take nothing for granted.”
When he says that — nothing for granted — he truly means it, and in more than a basketball sense.
Even during these finals, Wade’s private life was problematic. His ex-wife was charged with, among other things, trying to abduct their two sons when she failed to release them from a visit to her home as scheduled. The incident coincided with Father’s Day, and it wasn’t the first time custody of the boys was an issue on the holiday that Wade cherishes.
For days, he told only close family and friends. He scored 25 points in a finals game, hours after the boys got to their Miami home a day behind schedule and after some phone calls that could be best described as angst-laden.
The boys were with him on Thursday, the night he became a champion again.
“I have an unbelievable family, I have an unbelievable core, unbelievable support of friends and loved ones,” Wade said. “And to be back here with this trophy sitting next to me six years later, I’m blessed, I’m lucky to be put in the position I am. I’m going to enjoy this one a lot more than I enjoyed 2006. When you get there early, you say, ‘Oh, man, we’re going to do this again next year.’ This is not guaranteed right here, man. You have to enjoy this, and we will do that.”
Wade did something that a lot of stars would not have done to make this title happen.
He sacrificed, and sacrificed a lot. He left about $20 million in salary on the table in owner Micky Arison’s office to make sure that James, Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and others could be squeezed under the cap two summers ago. He turned over the role of team go-to guy to James, the player that even Wade will acknowledge is better.
“Best player in the world,” Wade said.
That’s what Heat president Pat Riley used to call Wade. It’s not a slight on Wade that someone better is here now. It’s what Wade wanted in the first place. Odds are, Wade will never be the highest-paid player on his team. He’s never been. But in the next few months, he’ll get his second championship ring, and the way this team is built, it easily might not be his last.
“We made a decision two years ago to become a team,” Wade said. “You know, LeBron, Chris and myself, and other guys decided to come together. So you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make sure that you reach your goal. And I had a position, I had a role to play. It might have changed a little bit, but at the end of the day we all had one common goal, and that was to become the champions.”
On Thursday, that finally happened.
On the same court where Dallas celebrated in front of them a year ago, Wade and the Heat won it all. A banner will rise, confetti fell.
How fitting. Ups and downs, just like his life has seen over these last six years.
“I’m speechless,” Wade said. “Winning the championship in 2006 was amazing. But I didn’t go through nothing yet. Now six years after that, I’ve been through a lot in my personal life, and I’ve been through a lot in my professional life, and this means so much more.”
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.