Dwyane Wade is still being forced to respond to how many free throws he took for the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals and said he deserved the calls he was getting and the trips to the line he was awarded.
“Everyone wanted to make an excuse for something,” Wade said. “And so one of the excuses they pulled out for me is, ‘Oh, he shot a lot of free throws.’ Well, why? Because my attack on the game was that. I attacked with that much force. And I attacked in angles.
“And yeah, did I get a couple superstar calls? You’re damn right. All superstars get ’em. But also outside of that, I put so much pressure on the defense that they had to — that they were outta place.
“And so I knew before people were practicing how to get fouls. Right now, these kids are training to get fouled. I didn’t train to get fouled. I just knew body angles.
“… I think that’s lazy for people to say that. Because if you know the game of basketball to know that I put so much pressure on the defense that they had no other choice sometimes but to foul me or be outta place defensively, which allowed me to get to the line.”
Wade is reflecting on his career as he prepares for his enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend. Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki also is being honored alongside Wade, and their meeting in the 2006 Finals is being revisited often, in this case specifically Game 3, when Wade went 13-for-18 from the free-throw line.
He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, when he made two of his three free-throw attempts, helping the Heat rally from an earlier 13-point deficit to win 98-96. It was their first victory of the series, which kept them from facing the brink of elimination. Miami then won the next three games to secure its first NBA championship, with Wade being named Finals MVP.
Wade had 97 free-throw attempts in the six-game series, an average of 16.2 attempts per contest. He made 75 of those attempts, which is tied for second in NBA Finals history with Jerry West (in 1970) behind Elgin Baylor’s 82 makes (in 1962), both for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Wade had 24 attempts total in the first two games, both Miami losses, and 73 in the four ensuing victories, with a high of 25 attempts (21 makes) in a pivotal 101-100 win in Game 5 and 21 attempts (16 makes) in the series-clinching 95-92 victory in Game 6.
Nowitzki in particular used that series loss as motivation and was ready for revenge when the Mavericks and Heat met again in the 2011 Finals, with Dallas winning its first championship in a six-game victory.
Nowitzki “hated” Wade and then-Heat stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh during that series, according to former Mavericks teammate J.J. Barea. Nowitzki has since mellowed about that experience, mentioning the respect he has for Wade multiple times since both were announced as upcoming Hall of Fame inductees.
Perhaps that multitude of free-throw attempts will be a cordial topic of conversation between the two men when they are honored this weekend.