By Dave Wischnowsky —
(CBS) Contrary to the popular belief in Chicago, Dwyane Wade does do more than just whine about the refs.
He whines about his hometown, too.
Back on March 26, the Miami Heat star complained to Orlando Sun-Sentinel writer Shandel Richardson about how the Windy City doesn’t love him like it should – apparently, because he’s a suburban guy.
Because, you know, that has to be it.
“It’s always been a knock on guys who played in the suburbs,” said Wade, who was born on Chicago’s South Side but played his high school ball at Richards in south suburban Oak Lawn. “You didn’t get as much attention because they think it’s not as tough or whatever the case may be.
“I think I represent the city. Guys are proud of that, but it’s something different between guys that go to school in the city and the suburbs.”
Bearing the headline “Wade’s success doesn’t seem to impress hometown Chicago” along with the subhead “Playing high school ball in suburbs might have kept Wade off Chicago’s radar,” the Sun-Sentinel story argued that if Wade wins his third NBA championship ring this season then he should be considered the greatest player to ever come out of the city.
With Wade’s Miami Heat currently caught up in a bitter second-round series with the Chicago Bulls, this seemed like a logical time to re-examine the Sun-Sentinel’s story from March and ask whether Wade really is underappreciated in Chicago – and if he indeed does deserve better.
In its story, the Sun-Sentinel stated that Wade’s “suburban status” is “perhaps the last thing preventing him from surpassing Isiah Thomas as Chicago’s most celebrated player.” That argument, however, makes little sense considering that Thomas as well as Doc Rivers – arguably the city’s two most widely acclaimed hoops products – played their respective high school ball at St. Joseph’s in Westchester and Proviso East in Maywood.
Both Chicago suburbs.
Now, I won’t discount the fact that Wade doesn’t often seem to be included in discussions among Chicago’s all-time greats, but I think much of that has to do with how the city views its basketball stars. From my viewpoint, Chicagoans generally seem to treasure guys more who became true legends as high school prodigies – in the city or the suburbs – than those who only found their fame after graduating, which is what Wade did at Marquette and in Miami after leaving Richards.
“There’s no question when you think basketball in Chicago, your natural tendency is to think Mark Aguirre, Isiah Thomas Doc Rivers, Terry Cummings and Derrick Rose,” Roy Schmidt, editor of Illinois Preps Bulls-Eye, told the Sun-Sentinel. “So I can certainly understand Dwyane saying that.”
And, sure, Wade can say whatever he wants. But he has to also recognize reality. And while Wade indeed was a great high school talent, he simply didn’t ingrain himself in Chicago’s consciousness and capture the city’s fascination during his prep days at Richards – that past fact is as significant as anything that’s transpired since then.
What’s more interesting is that Wade even cares what Chicagoans think about him.
Because it seems to me that if being hailed as the Windy City’s greatest of all-time really was so important to him, Wade would have signed with the Bulls as a free agent in 2010 instead of simply leading the team on before eventually re-upping with Miami. And if he doesn’t understand why that might have set many Chicagoans against celebrating him, well, perhaps he can ask somebody for a little help.
Like the refs, for example.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.