Real Super Hero

By Michael Tillery

While Shaq the seven foot real life superman, is thunderously avalanching through the universe bellowing, “Can you dig it?” Flash is racing past his opponents at the speed of light, seemingly to whisper in one ear, “Watch this” and “Did you see that?�” into the other. Even Marvel Comics can’t compete with this. Before his rivals can turn their heads to say “huh, what?”, Flash is gone again with frenetic break neck speed leaving the opponent flabbergasted and the crowd roaring with excitement. Once more wowing us by one of his sick and amazingly smooth athletic dunks that can’t really be compared to anyone else. Now, that’s African! He flies like Mike, abuses gravity like Julius, and gracefully glides like Clyde. You can bet Steve Nash’s back to back MVP trophies that Dwyane Wade will become one of the most accomplished athletes of our time. He has become a master of reticent alchemy and helped to transform the Miami Heat from recent expansion team to NBA champions. Wade is simply white hot. As hot as the Heat fans wearing all white at home–were at Wade’s accomplishments in becoming the MVP of the series, averaging 34 points, the third most ever for a player in his initial championship finals.

Wade is like a 6’4” sinewy wrecking ball with the buoyancy and stealth of an attacking nuclear sub. Watch out! He will bang it on your center–with the ease and force comparable to any and all of the best dunkers of all time.

If he were truly the mercurial superhero Flash, he would not need the prosthetic muscular breast plate associated with comic book heroes. You haven’t heard his name being linked to anything criminal and most likely you won’t. His jersey sold more than any other NBA player. He’s been featured in People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people, modeled for Diddy’s Sean John, been the on the cover of the EA Sports video game, NBA Live 2006, and has been given the mantra of being the NBA’s best dresser according to GQ. He is a Christian who this year donated 10% of his 2.6 million dollar salary to the Blood, Water and Spirit Ministry in Chicago. He was tithing before he made millions in the league. His son’s name is Zaire Blessing Dwyane Wade and there are stories that he and his wife Siohvaugn, have been together since they were nine. Wade is here to prove that you can be a bad boy on the court without living the bad boy lifestyle.

He is what an athlete should be, a true role model for our children.

His Jeter like presence is nothing Hollywood, it is not botoxed enhanced or spoken off the top of his head by chance. Wade is supremely and intently aware of the honorable moment that he was blessed to be placed and his legacy–up to this point–in his young career can only be matched by Magic or Bird, period. We all have to be careful here to not anoint Wade the best ever. He has a long way to go and there are so many legends gazing from the horizon with greater individual careers and substantially more team accomplishments. Hopefully, writers across the land will write with positive history shaping admiration regarding Flash so young men will understand that it’s OK to be God fearing fathers, husbands and loyal friends.

He is a soldier for childhood literacy. His favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. In his own words he describes why: I guess they wonder how a love story from Regency, England could be relevant to a 21st century basketball player from the South side of Chicago. Class struggle, overcoming stereotypes and humble beginnings, getting out of your own way and letting love take over – these are the things I can relate to, definitely. Somewhere, Doc and Mike are smiling, because the NBA ambassador of moral class has finally been passed to an individual capable of being responsible with God-given talent, but not being jaded and falling for all the pitfalls of super stardom. We are seeing someone great grow up before our eyes. With all the negativity presently surrounding sports, it’s good to see the cream rise to the top. We should all hope it continues.

Can you believe that Wade wasn’t higher on most “experts” draft boards? Just that March, he opened the college basketball world’s eyes with a performance similar to this years finals. Remember the triple double against top seeded Kentucky? Rightfully so, the world was witness to coronation of LeBron, and Carmelo was driving Syracuse to that year’s title, but Wade is as special as they become.

As great as Le Bron is and will become, rest assured that the collective Heat brass does not envy the Cavaliers. You can bet Mark Cuban’s NBA levied 1.65 million in fines (Stern is being ridiculous) that every other team envies the Heat. The notable exception being the Cavs of course. The 2003 draft has become one of the best ever, now commonly compared, albeit maybe a tad prematurely, to the great 1984 class that was headlined by Jordan, Barkley, Olajuwon, Stockton and even included 9-time Gold medalist, Carl Lewis (10th round, Bulls), who stuck to his day job and became one of the greatest Olympians ever. The 2003 draft was spear headed by King James, Melo, D Wade and Chris Bosh. With second tier potential stars like Josh Howard, Barbosa, Hinrich, Diaw, and Kaman, this draft alone will help the league prosper for years to come. Don’t believe the hype that pro basketball is going through a period of suffering, because the NBA is thriving with some serious talent that is as athletic and marketable as it is young.

Dallas tried all they could to stop D-Wade. He dominated the finals in story like fashion. He stepped up and split constant double teams, spin moving to avoid trouble and put himself in an always advantageous position to drive, shoot or pass to open teammates who had the heart to come through. Shaquille was gracious enough to trust Wade to carry him to his 4th title. You have to feel great for Alonzo Mourning�he came up big with crucial blocks and some big baskets throughout the series after kidney disease derailed him in his prime. What can you say about Gary Payton, who like many others, were victims of Jordan’s reign but persevered to hit two huge fourth quarter shots in games 4 and 5 helping the Heat to close wins. Walker should be labeled a winner because he’s pulled off the rare feat of winning an NCAA championship at Kentucky (Riley’s alma mater) and topped that off by shimmying his way to an NBA title while on his back after taking a clutch charge in the fourth quarter. That will definitely be a memorable moment in his enigmatic career. Simply put, Talent wins championships.

Most of the credit should go to Pat Riley, who stepped from the front office amid ridiculous scrutiny to teach this true team how to win.

Riley, who in 1966 led Kentucky and overtly racist head coach Adolph Rupp to the title game and lost Texas Western (now UTEP). In that game Coach Don Haskins started 5 Black players for the initial time in NCAA basketball history. Just imagine how that game has shaped Riley’s coaching style as well as his overall life.

We’ll all be sitting on the edge of our seats to see just how great Dwyane Wade will become and what lessons he’s learned. Appreciate the constant maturing greatness that he exudes, because just like his nickname, in a flash the great players are gone.

Michael Tillery is a Delaware writer who just can’t understand why so many of our heroes keep dropping the ball. He can be reached via email at


12 thoughts on “Real Super Hero

  1. This is a great article. I love what you had to say about Wade. It’s funny he should be the first in his class to get a title when the league spent so much money to put LeBron in that position. However, I am not a Heat fan. Wade is the sole reason they won a title. Riley is NOT the coach he used to be. Payton is beyond past his prime. Williams and Walker showed why they have been shipped around the league, and Shaq proved that he actually needs another superstar to win a title, superman can’t do it by himself. Wade being on the Heat is almost an oxymoron. He is this good guy, gritty player on a team full of assholes, excuse my French, but there was just no other way to say it. I will give them credit for winning, but I must recognize the reason why they won – Flash gets the credit for that one!

  2. Good article.
    The 2003 draft class is full of potential “hall of fame” type players and as noted about Wade – this group also seems to be made up of “good people” – highly skilled, hard working, respectable young men.

    The mention of “feeling great” for Alonzo has to bother everyone in NJ and Toronto. The guy decided not to play for these teams because they weren’t in a position to win and used the excuse of his ailment to collect his check! Amazingly he was deemed fit to play by Miami immediately after being released by Toronto. If any of us working stiffs had collected a big settlement as a result of being declared unfit to work, then turned around and signed a big contract for more bucks with another employer – we could expect to be sued at a minimum or charged with fraud! Alonzo collected about $20,000,000 after saying he couldn’t play because of his ailment. Does anyone honestly think if they collected $20,000 in this manner they wouldn’t be explaining themselves in court? Just because you’re a famous and skilled athelete shouldn’t give you the right to extort monies from your employers with no consequences. At the very least – this guy doesn’t deserve any props from the sports media!

  3. Mary, thanks for so much for the kind words. I became enamored with Wade the initial time I saw him play at Marquette. When I mention he has a Jeter like presence, I’m speaking of his calm-cool-but don’t ever forget that I’m here-or you’ll get burned personality. He’s going to be a great player. He was the reason why the Heat won. To average 17 free throws a game is simply unheard of. Here’s something else I wrote about Wade:

    With wings to float like the Hawk, a body to ferociously stride like the Black panther, Dwyane strapped the Heat to his back and willed himself to the line like the Answer. Disposed of Dallas to win the championship that made even Mark Cuban clap without malice. Played silently yet with confident dignity, as Riley embraced the 15 strong and asked of Zo and GP, are ya with me? Descendant of the African ash is the Flash who will consistently give up his cash with class on every Sunday that Zaire Blessing will see pass. You won’t see him out there late at night, ego tripping and going wild, D-Wade is a loyal friend, loving husband and a true father to his child.

    Thanks again Mary 🙂

  4. Steve, while I feel bad for Toronto and NJ, we should all have the right to work where we please regardless of the circumstances. What the average fan forgets is that these athletes are people. Regardless of the millions they make, they have personal problems that affect their reasoning and performance. As a sports writer and reporter, I hear these reasons and say “Oh that’s why such and such played so good or so bad.” I can’t comment with logically on the reason why he left those cities because I truly don’t know. If he did use his ailment, then he was wrong. I wanted Zo to get a ring because I met him personally in Cancun and had the pleasure of having a few drinks with him in 93. He didn’t use his celebrity to get abnormal treatment and paid for a lot of the patron’s drinks. That’s the memory I have of him. He is a warrior who finally had the chance to claim victory for himself and his Georgetown family. Kudos to him.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Steve

  5. Micheal,

    Professional leagues tend to treat their atheletes like property and its not always right. But this cuts both ways. Zo didn’t play good or bad for NJ or Toronto – he refused to show up. That’s not a character move.

    If Zo had walked away without taking the cash and then signed on with Miami for a chance to win a title – I would have respected his decision. He didn’t.

  6. We should all hold ourselves accountable and lead by example. I totally agree with you, but I’m not one to judge anyone. I’m not that type of journalist. I have children who aspire to become great at what they do. It’s my job to teach them the right way so a similar situation won’t rear it’s head later on. Like I alluded to before, I’m not going to judge Zo for two perceived decisions in his overall stellar career. Zo’s done some great things in his career on and off the court, that’s what i choose to acknowledge, but that’s just me.

    Thanks Steve!

  7. You claim that Adolph Rupp was ‘overtly racist’. I’m curious what exactly you’re basing that on ? You may note that the producers of the movie Glory Road actually hired people to research Rupp and they found absolutely no evidence in the actual record of Rupp saying or doing anything racist. Said Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the movie. “Adolph Rupp was a man of his times – that’s all he was. There were no African-American athletes playing in the South. And we couldn’t find anything that he said on the record that was racist – ever. Even though I’ve read books that claimed he was a racist and said these things, we couldn’t find them.”

    So again what exactly are you basing this claim on ? You’re own ignorance maybe.

    FWIW, I don’t know whether Rupp was racist or not. He may have been. He certainly made a number of enemies during his lifetime, and a couple after he died. And there are certainly some things he could have said and done differently that would have helped his legacy.

    But I must say that the claim by some (most of whom are largely idiots ignorant of history) that they KNOW for sure that he was racist and their drive to make Rupp a scapegoat for racism in college basketball is so unfair and so one-sided that I take issue with the morons who continue to repeat this stuff without any meaningful examination of the facts. If Rupp was such an ‘overt racist’ as you and others like to claim, why in the hell would he do some of the things he did below ?

    1.) coach (and start) a black player in the 1920s ?

    2.) befriend Don Barksdale (the 1st black US basketball Olympian) in the 1948 Olympics and commisserate with him about the injustices Barksdale had to endure in the States ? Barksdale has been quoted as saying Rupp was his ‘closest friend’ during the trip to the Olympic games.

    3.) help black players obtain scholarships, including Jim Tucker who became an all-american at Duquesne, at a time when it was illegal for Rupp to even have a black basketball player due to state law preventing blacks and whites from being taught in the same class room.

    4.) hold basketball clinics for black coaches and black players at historically black colleges in the 1930’s and 1940’s ?

    5.) invite black basketball players to participate in the NABC all-star games in the early 1960s in Lexington. At a time when other SEC schools had yet to host any black players on their campus.

    6.) host black basketball players on their campus beginning in 1948 and continuing on through the 1950s with regularity (again over a decade before any other SEC school did so)

    7.) make a number of public annoucements that he supported integration of UK’s basketball team and was the frist coach of an SEC or ACC school to recruit a black player and offer him a scholarship (Wes Unseld in 1964)

    8.) receive hundreds of death threats in the early 1960’s for the above desires to integrate his program

    etc. etc.

    I could go on, but I think the point has been made. I would for once like to see someone actually take the time to learn the facts, and then make a serious explanation of their position. I’d also be curious to know why Rupp seems to be singled out in comparison to the literally hundreds of other coaches and college administrators who were around during the time.

  8. Read my articles. I’m not racist. Now that that is out of the way, I have to tell you that the following statement made my Bruckheimer is a marketing tool at best. I admire Bruckheimer for wanting to make money while also healing wounds.

    “Said Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the movie. “Adolph Rupp was a man of his times – that’s all he was.” This generalizing statement is a cop out. It’s like saying a kid from the ghetto is going to become a thug. Or better yet, the reason why he is a thug is because he is from the ghetto and his daddy was never around. That’s BS to me. We all have a stance to make in our lives. Our individual legacies are encapsulated around our faults.

    Did he have a Black player on his team? We all know the answer. I don’t want to hear about pressure from boosters, fans, politicians, criminals, family members or the like, have some balls. He could have change history instead of becoming it. There were many Black and White people who were hung for what they believed in. I will not defend any person–Black or White–for history’s sake. That’s just my opinion though 🙂 Terrell Owens is an ass and not because people say he is one. Where there is smoke there is fire. One question, just for general principal, do you think Ty Cobb was racist?

  9. I stand corrected Jon. I researched Rupp the entire day. I’m going to write a retraction as soon as I’m able to acquire some more detailed information. I actually interviewed one of Rupp’s Runts–Larry Conley–today and he enlightened me on a number of things. UK is sending me a DVD mainly about Rupp’s influence on the blue grass state and what he tried to do to forward the progress of Black ball players in the South. I thank you for your comments because they worked. I’m sorry if I offended any person who is White. I’m in this business to do right, not be like the sycophantic cynicism that unfortunately is present in the world of sports today. Simply put, I was wrong.

  10. Great article, and im very thankful that you made me realize what do my young idols in the nba are.You made my belief about my young nba superheroes and other idols like Zo true. I am also deeply touched by the comments and i felt like im reading comments of good men that are very moral. I love to read more articles of this kind and manly comments that are based in truth not just fiction. Thank you for being true.

  11. Michael,

    Just to be on the record, I never claimed you were racist, so I’m not sure where that came from.

    FWIW, I do agree with you about the claim that “Rupp was a product of his times” is a cop-out. Although he certainly was a product of his time (which is true for anyone and which IMO should indeed be considered), I also believe that people should more importantly be judged for what was available/possible to them, even if they had to stretch to get there.

    There are some that like to use the “Rupp was a product of his times” line, including Larry Conley who has said it a few times. I don’t buy that line because 1.) like you I consider it a cop-out which tends to absolve people from blame, even if they do morally wrong things but also 2.) because I think after looking at Rupp’s history that he deserves better recognition for the positive thing he actually did do with regard to race and which at times did involve stretching beyond his roots and the times he lived in. (some of which I named above)

    I provided the quote from Bruckheimer, not because I agree with that particular line (I don’t) or that I have a lot of respect for Bruckheimer in general (I don’t), but because he is the producer of record for Glory Road and what he says about the work that went into the researching and making of the film is the most relevant.

    To get back to the claim about Rupp being ahead of his time in some instances, I mentioned that he held basketball clinics for black coaches and players in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Again, this was at a time when it was literally a felony to teach black and white students in the same classroom. Yet Rupp travelled to Kentucky State College (a historically black university) and at least on one occassion brought members of his team along. I don’t know about anyone else but I consider that fairly ground-breaking.

    Another example from the 1930’s, I discovered through seaching through archives that Rupp was paid $20 to speak at the Kentucky Negro Educational Association annual convention held in Louisville in 1938. I looked in the white newspapers hoping to find more information about what he spoke about etc. but those papers did not cover the convention in any detail. I did find some more details in the black newspaper, the Louisville Leader, which basically mentioned that on the day Rupp spoke, the convention was broken down into different sections depending on subject area, with presumably one of the subjects being physical education.

    I would love to discover what the topic and substance of Rupp’s speech was. But regardless, I personally find it yet another interesting example of Rupp going outside his normal boundaries, These examples, and others, are ones that most of his critics either don’t realize or recognize.

    FWIW, I started becoming interested in this topic over 10 years ago when I (as a Kentucky fan) began to learn more about UK history and began to realize that a lot of what was being claimed by people like Curry Kirkpatrick, John Feinstein etc. wasn’t telling the whole story, and in a lot of cases was telling a distorted and factually inaccurate story. Since that time I’ve collected more and more information about the topic and have been regularly adding it to my webpage on the topic. (although I currently have a backlog of information which has not yet made it to the page). Here’s the address of the page. (warning, it’s a long read)

    Note that as a UK fan, I have certain biases which make their way onto the page (although I try to delineate them as being my comments). However, I don’t try to definitively say that Rupp was racist or not. Everyone has their own opinions and can build their own conclusions based on the facts. All I ask of people is that they read the entire page, and then they can form their own conclusions. At least then they’ll be basing their ideas on actual facts, rather than misinformation.

    To me, whether he was racist or not in his mind is largely a minor issue at this point. What is more important IMO is how did this story become so distorted by the media and why. Also, why does it seem Rupp is singled out as compared to others ? To me, the answer to those questions has broader implications as to how the media shapes our lives in other areas beyond college basketball.


    PS, you mention that UK is sending you a DVD which discusses this issue. FWIW, I (with the help of others) have transcribed that documentary. You can read the text at the link below.

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