Another Bulls related segment...
1. Dwyane Wade
His Game 4 against the Celtics (46 points, just eight missed shots) was one of the highest degree-of-difficulty performances I can ever remember watching. It had already been established that (A) his team sucked, (B) the Celtics were going to swarm him at the 3-point line any time he thought about driving, (C) they were going to double him coming off any screen, and (D) any time he drove into the paint, the entire Boston team was going to collapse on him. Didn't matter. After he caught fire in the fourth, the Celtics double-teamed him 35 feet from the basket. He still got his points. This wasn't a great game as much as a great performance -- to paraphrase the great Bill Walton, Wade controlled the flow of the game and did it with real meaning.
An NBA performance can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. For instance, you can have ...
"The Torch Pass" -- When a younger great player yanks the torch away from an older great player. Like Bird outscoring Doc 42-6 in 1984, leading to their crazy fight.
"The Robert Altman" -- When someone controls every aspect of a basketball game without scoring, almost like a director would control a movie. Only Bird and Magic could do this consistently ... although LeBron has it in him.
"The Angelina Jolie in 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith'" -- When a potential free agent is playing on the road in a potential destination city and turns it on a little, and in return, the crowd raises it a level as well. Think LeBron in New York.
"The Severe Gut Check" -- When a veteran star(s) is running on fumes and grits out one of those "There's no way in hell I'm losing this" playoff games. Best example: Jordan and Pippen, Game 7, 1998 Eastern Finals versus Indiana. Just an FYI: We might see Kobe pull one or two of these off this spring. I'm excited.
"The Mitchell & Ness Throwback" -- When a slightly-past-his-prime star reaches into the throwback machine and submits a monster game. My favorite recent one: Shaq's 36-20 in Game 4 of the 2004 Finals. His last truly dominant game.
"The Billy Chapel" -- When a mostly washed-up player catches fire one last time. Think Steve Kerr against Dallas in the 2003 playoffs, or Big Shot Rob in Game 5 of the 2005 Finals.
"The Dueling Banjos" -- When two great players bring the best out in each other on a big stage. Think Bird and Dominique, Game 7, 1988 playoffs.
"The Willis Reed" -- When an injured player defies the odds, returns at home and makes a few big plays. We just had one of these! Brandon Roy in Game 4. And no, I still don't think he should have played.
"The Michael Jackson Moonwalk" -- When a future superstar puts himself on the map with one of those "In case there wasn't any doubt, I am here to stay" moments (like Jordan's 63 in the Boston Garden). Yes, I am hoping for a Durant Moonwalk Game Friday night in Game 6 or in Game 7. Keep your fingers crossed.
"The Eff You" -- When a star destroys a team with particular zeal. My personal favorite: Bird in Game 6 of the 1986 Finals. The best example: Jordan's Game 4 versus the '93 Knicks (54 points and at least 10 eff you moments).
"The Eff You In Particular" -- When a star destroys a rival with particular zeal. Like Jordan ruining Drexler in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals, or Hakeem watching David Robinson accept the 1994 MVP trophy (then dismantling him completely and totally), or MJ hitting the buzzer-beater in the first game of the 1997 Finals after "MVP" Karl Malone missed two free throws. Just for the record, I absolutely LOVE the "Eff You In Particular" game. My favorite of favorites.
"The Degree of Difficulty" -- When a star shines as efficiently and splendidly as possible. It's almost like a perfect figure skating routine. Had Wade played Game 4 any worse than he did, Miami would have been swept. He had to nail his triple axels, his double toe loops, everything. It was a 9.9 on the Degree of Difficulty Scale.
"The Virtuoso Evisceration" -- When a star completely and totally destroys a team Keyser Soze style without any real provocation. He's just doing it for sport and carving a manufactured challenge into a real one. As in, "I haven't proved this in a while, I thought it would be fun to kick some butt." That's what LeBron did in Game 4 against Chicago. Only the greats can pull this off. It's the highest level you can hit.
Here's the point: I know that Wade, depending on the situation, can hit nearly every one of those aforementioned levels. But the last one? I don't know. He might be on the Virtuoso Evisceration level, he might not. We won't know until he plays for a very good team in a city that gives a crap about basketball. He should sign with Chicago. He should force a sign-and-trade to Dallas. He should do something. We know Dwyane Wade is great. We just don't know how great. He owes it to himself to find out.
I'm DONE doubting Jimmy Butler.
And you should be too.