Dwyane Wade has largely been forgotten in the NBA MVP race this year. He has been reduced to a consensual third place finisher in the two man race of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Funny thing is, I don’t think he cares.

NBA superstars have made a habit out of playing it cool when it comes to personal awards, often stating “I just try to do my best to help my team win. If that means I get an individual award then that’s great. But the team comes first.” For some, this is coming straight from their publicist’s mouth. For others, like Wade, it’s the truth. He has a hunger to win, no matter what. And yes, the same can be said for Lebron and Kobe, too.

Wade makes his team better every single night he takes the court. Without him, the Miami Heat would be lounging on South Beach instead of tied with the Atlanta Hawks at 1 game a piece heading into Saturday’s showdown on Biscayne Boulevard.

Dwyane was the NBA’s scoring leader this season, averaging 30.2 points per game, beating Lebron by nearly 2 points and Kobe by over 3. Wade was 9th in assists with 7.5/game, Lebron was 10th (7.2/game) and Kobe 36th (4.9/game). Kobe and Lebron beat Wade in rebounding, but Wade still managed to grab 5 rebounds a night (Kobe grabbed 5.2 and Lebron 7.6). In blocks, shooting guard Dwyane Wade was 25th in the league with 1.34, tied with four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. James is 40th with 1.15 and Kobe averaged .45 blocks per game.

Dwyane Wade was second in the league in steals, averaging 2.19 steals a game behind only Chris Paul’s 2.77/game. Lebron and Kobe, also great defenders, averaged 1.69 and 1.46 steals per game, respectively. I can continue to shout statistics at you, but some people would discredit this strategy, citing instead the intangible, immeasurable difference each player makes for their team every time they walk out of the locker room, or step inside the locker room.

Who deserves the NBA MVP award? Is it the man with the best overall statistics from the given season? How would you decide which statistics are more worthy than others? And how do you measure leadership? A big factor in many voters’ eyes. Well, you can’t put a number on leadership, but anybody that has watched Lebron, Kobe or Dwyane this season knows that each brings an unmatchable leadership to their team. Chris Paul is scary close, but is still a rung under the NBA’s top three superstars.

Without Wade on the court, the Heat struggle to contend with the NBA’s best teams. Michael Beasley is an emerging star, lighting up at times, but fizzling at others. Mario Chalmers is quickly developing into the floor general all great teams need and Udonis Haslem continues to grab rebounds and will step up to hit a big shot when needed. He is also the co-captain and another veteran leader for the young Heat. And Jamario Moon and Jermaine O’Neal have proved to be valuable mid-season additions to the heat. All these factors considered, the Heat would not be in the playoffs without Wade.

Would the Cavs or Lakers be atop their conferences? No. Not without Lebron and Kobe guiding them. But they would still be playoff teams. I’m sure there are people who will disagree, but each team possesses enough talent to carry them into the playoffs without their superstar. Mo Williams has stepped up big for the Cavs and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Delonte West provide solid scoring every night. Could this team make it to the playoffs? Sure. Could Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom carry the Lakers into the playoffs in the tougher Western Conference? Absolutely. Derek Fisher contributes experience and veteran leadership to the team, something that comes in handy down the stretch and into the playoffs. They don’t need Kobe to make the playoffs, but they need him to win the title. The same is true for Lebron and the Cavs.

Conclusion: without Dwyane Wade the Miami Heat would have never stood a chance to make the postseason, let alone compete for a championship. They’d be sitting on the beach, fat and bored, waiting for next year to begin. Dwyane Wade is this season’s NBA MVP. And in regards to the postseason, look out. When Wade wants it, he takes it. Remember the 2006 championship series when he garnered comparisons to all-time great Michael Jordan? He snatched the title from the Mavericks down 0-2.

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