Dwyane Wade encourages Kevin Durant to play Mr. Nice Guy on his new superteam
It isn’t too tough to remember a time when the Miami Heat were absolutely loathed.
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The squad featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh annoyed the hell out of just about everyone in 2010 with James’ tortured Decision performance, followed by a salsabration dance that came nearly two years before the team even had a championship to its name.
When LeBron and Co. started off the season 7-8, the punters had fun with it; and for good reason. In response, James and Wade attempted to paint themselves as dispassionate tough guys with the pants to match. It was more than a little diaphanous, and it only lasted as long as it took the Heat to win its first title with LeBron in June, 2012.
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With Kevin Durant having left the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer to join his own superteam in Golden State, new Chicago Bull Dwyane Wade (!) is seeing the parallels. And, via Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders, he’s warning the 2013-14 NBA MVP to at least attempt to keep some good cheer as the Warriors figure it all out:
“I think the biggest thing is, what I say is just enjoy it. One thing we did wrong our first year was we played into the villain role because people was not liking that we was together and we tried to play into that role. That’s not why we started playing basketball – we started playing basketball because we enjoyed it and we loved it.”
“When you play that way, you win that way,” Wade said of playing with joy. “That’s the one thing, don’t play into the role of what people expect of you.
“You have the ability to do whatever you want in life and you made a decision, so live with your decision,” he said of Durant, specifically. “Enjoy your decision and just enjoy playing basketball.”
You’ll recall that, entering his second (and, eventually, championship) season with Miami in the winter of 2011, LeBron James also chided himself for trying to wear the black hat throughout 2010-11:
“I play the game fun, joyful, and I let my game do all of the talking and I got away from that. That’s what I lost last year. Going through my first seven years in the NBA I was always the “liked one” and to be on the other side — they call it the dark side or the villain or whatever they call it — it was definitely challenging for myself. It was a situation I had never been in before, and it took awhile … it took a long time to adjust to it. […] It basically turned me into somebody I wasn’t. You start to hear ‘the villain,’ now you have to be the villain, you know, and I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level, or at a mind state that I’ve never played at before … meaning, angry. And that’s mentally. That’s not the way I play the game of basketball.”
Seven months after admitting that the perpetual scowl that marked most of 2010-11 was a mistake, LeBron James won his first NBA title with the Heat. He hasn’t exactly grinned from ear to ear in the years since, but it’s hard to argue with four Finals appearances and two championships to follow.
Durant’s situation, clearly, is similar.
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His Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t as stunted as James’ Cleveland Cavaliers teams were, not by a mile. James’ also-ran teammates included max signees like Larry Hughes, trade acquisitions such as Ben Wallace, and Mo Williams the All-Star. Durant’s runs in OKC were marked with the presence of All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, alongside an impressive series of strong contributing teammates that, until 2012, included James Harden.
Injuries and the impossibly-tough Western Conference got in the way of the Thunder making it to the Finals for all but one year: 2011-12. That Finals run saw Miami, just days after LeBron got his act together as a member of the Heat, get in the way of Durant’s best shot at a title in Oklahoma City. He saw firsthand how a joyous, and sometimes shoeless, Miami Heat did as expected while still showcasing a bit of joie de vivre.
It isn’t as if Durant’s 2016-17 Warriors are playing without a smile to crack, the team has started 4-2 and saw its season begin with a nationally televised blowout defeat before an unheralded Laker team topped them for loss No. 2, but they don’t look anything like the clueless crew that masqueraded as the Heat for the first few weeks of 2010-11. Golden State has quite a lot to figure out, in ways that won’t be sussed out due to a warming regular season, but the pressure isn’t nearly as strong as what James, Wade and Chris Bosh dealt with entering their first year together.
Mostly because James, and then the Heat, dropped the ball on the player introductions. Durant’s move to Golden State hasn’t exactly sung silently, but KD had quite a bit to learn from after the world understandably came down rather harshly on LeBron James following his move to Miami, and subsequent missteps.
Now, at Dwyane Wade’s suggestion, he’ll have something to learn from in the autumn and winter as well.
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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!