The Basketball Jones 40: What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a little hard to define. It’s certainly not a list of the 40 best players in the league right now — in fact, a couple players on the TBJ 40 would be ones that teams would gladly pay just to go away (and some have). And it’s not a list of our 40 favorite players, either — the combined man-hours that some of us have spent rooting against a couple of these guys would certainly disqualify that as well. It’s not even the 40 funniest or most interesting players, as a couple players are dull as dishwater off the court, but do enough on the hardwood to make their inclusion undeniable.
No, the best way we can define the Basketball Jones 40 is as the 40 players that are most important to our site right now. The players we write about the most, the players we follow the closest, the players that TBJ could least afford to be without. And what goes into that is an entire series of factors, ranging from their on-court success to their off-court headline making to their general likability as athletes, celebrities and human beings.
Hit the jump for No. 6 on our list …
If it’s possible for someone widely considered to be one of the five best players in the league to be underrated, Dwyane Wade would probably be the best example. Dan LeBatard put it best, when talking about LeBron James joining the Heat: “He’s the best player in the world…but he might not be the best player on this team!” An on-court marvel of play-making and athleticism, unlike his teammate, Wade also has the post-season resume to back up his league stature. Still, he continues to be somewhat looked over in the Best Player Alive discussions, possibly due to his lacking a single area of total on-court domination, or because he was stuck on shitty teams for a number of years, or because, for whatever reason, he’s not quite as interesting as Kobe or LeBron. The commercials aren’t helping, by the way.
2011 Season: It wasn’t the best regular season of Dwyane Wade’s career, but despite something of a slow start, Wade rounded into form in time to end with a stat line that, while not exactly eye-popping, was still indicative of another year of awesome all-around efficiency—unsurprisingly, he finished third in the league in PER. After struggling against the Bulls in the Conference Finals for the Heat, Wade had his second straight finals for the ages against the Dallas Mavericks, though it turned out to be for naught as his teammates proved less up to the task. A weird year for Dwyane, full of ups and downs for which he was never really given either the blame or credit, but ultimately, he came out looking about as strong as ever. (18/20)
Legacy/Career: If Wade retired today, would he be a Hall of Famer? Probably, though his counting totals are still a little low, thanks to his having played just eight years and being injury-plagued for his two post-championship seasons. Nonetheless, seven all-star appearances, a scoring title, an Olympic gold medal (as the team’s highest scorer, despite coming off the bench), and of course, that 2006 championship, where he was the only All-Star caliber player not already past his prime, ensure that a couple more seasons of even subpar play will probably be enough to get Wade enshrined in Springfield before all is said and done. (9/10)
Drama/Controversy: Of course, Wade has been part of the drama that has engulfed the Miami Heat since LeBron and Bosh both said “I will,” though of all the principals involved, he came off the best, thanks to his original association with the team, and his safety net of already having one ring. Aside from that, Wade went through a messy divorce a few years ago, which included his wife accusing him of holding drug-fueled sex parties
Go-To Move: A Ginobili-esque Eurostep trot into the lane, a subtle mix of Wade’s athleticism and craftiness that proved absolutely devastating to the Mavs during the finals. (9/10)
Highlight Play: I’ve always been a fan of Wade’s and-one annihilation of Anderson Varejao — partly because it came after a LeBron missed dunk at the other end, and partly because fuck Anderson Varejao — but we still have to go with Wade’s Marino-esque deep ball alley-oop to LeBron last season, one of the most stunning hookups we’ll ever witness on the hardwood. (10/10)
Comedic Potential: Not considerable. Wade’s a likable enough guy, if you don’t believe his ex-wife and her lawyer, but he stops just short of genuine charisma, something that’s held his star power in check through his countless T-Mobile and Converse commercials. (4/10)
Nicknames: People used to call him “Flash,” one of the league’s two-dozen-or-so Shaq-appointed nicknames, but now they mostly stick to D-Wade. Identifiable but uninspiring. (5/10)
Definitive Quote: “My Five is hot.” (8/10)
Non-Hoops Ventures: We’ve already brought them up about a dozen times, but man, those commercials. Wade has been unavoidable during NBA timeouts and quarter breaks for over a half-decade now, most notably through his T-Mobile series with Charles Barkley (and eventually Yao Ming and Dwight Howard), but also for (stealing from his Wiki here) Gatorade, Lincoln, Staples, Sean John, Topps, Converse and eventually Nike. With LeBron on the outs, Kobe still a little hmmm and Durant not quite there yet, Wade may in fact reign as the league’s most marketable star—which bodes well for DV-R sales among NBA fans for the next few years. (5/5)
Poignant NBA Relationship: Probably with teammate of eight years and personal body guard of sorts, UD, Udonis Haslem. Even as Haslem was being courted by the Mavs and other teams last off-season, you kinda knew he wasn’t going to be able to break away from Wade and all his new friends in Miami. (4/5)
TOTAL SCORE: 79/100