Dwyane Wade. That’s right, the Miami Heat shooting guard has been selected by the venerable editors at Sports Illustrated as the 2006 Sportsman of the Year.
SI Managing Editor Terry McDonell would not confirm or deny the selection, which is set to be announced on Monday.
Wade is one-third of the NBA’s Holy Trinity: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Wade. Collectively, they’ve rescued the NBA from its post-Jordan haze and re-energized interest in the league. (Some say they saved it.) They graced the cover of the magzine’s NBA Preview Issue, which pretty much signifies SI believes the game is snugly in their hands.
Why Wade? Last spring (or was it summer?) he led the Heat to its first NBA title. He averaged 34.7 point per game, outshined teammate Shaquille O’Neal and was named the NBA Finals MVP.
Off the court, Wade is the boy you want your daughter to bring home. He a devoted Christian husband and father of a four-year-old son, Zaire Blessing Dwyane Wade. He and his wife were married shortly after their son was born during Wade’s sophomore season at Marquette. “It gave something I’d been searching for all of my life,” Wade has been quoted as saying of his wife and son. “To have a person who believes in you so much and a child with a light in his eyes gave me the foundation I needed to flourish. My wife and son are invaluable to me. She inspires me, and our marriage has helped me mature and be responsible.”
All great stuff. D-Wade is a gem, a worthy Air heir, even as part of a trio. But Sportsman of the Year?
SI’s editors overlooked a few obvious candidates, some for good reason, others not so much so:
* Roger Federer – The most obvious oversight. The ten-time Grand Slam Tennis champion won 95% of his matchesin 2006. He is undoubtedly the best athlete never to have appeared on the SI cover, and this year he was the most dominant athlete on the planet not named Tiger. He won three of the four majors (the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. Open) for the second time (also in 2004) and reached the finals of the French. Why not the No. 1 Tennis player in the world? Because, alas, SI’s editors, in my humble view, are swayed too much by the fact that tennis covers don’t sell. [Full disclosure: I spent 11 years at SI, most recently as an Assistant Managing Editor, a position I held for three years until December 2005.]
Frankly, when it comes to the selection of the SOY – the person who most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement on and off the playing field – I do not believe newsstand sales should matter. But hey, that’s just me.
Curiously, the editors called Federer “The MJ of tennis” in their November 27 issue. Federer was the subject of the Scorecard lead, in which wonderful writer L. Jon Wertheim noted: “Exclude all the rankings points Federer garnered at the four majors…and he would still be the SATP’s top-ranked player in 2006. What the hell, here’s one more statistic: Federer’s points lead is so commanding that the differential between him and No. 2Rafael Nadal is larger than the gap between Nadal and the 50th-ranked player, Marc Gicquel.” L. Jon added: “He’s still squarely inhis prime and could easily rule the sport for several more years.” Was this a pre-apology for not being selected SOY?
Tiger Woods – Is there a year when he can’t be named SOY. Woods solidified his status as the most dominant athlete of our era by winning two Grand Slam events in a wrenching emotion season. Woods lost his father, mentor and friend just after the Masters and after struggling at the U.S. Open (He admits he came back too soon) he so spanked folks for the remainder of the year you almost felt sorry for them. Almost. Of course Woods has already been SOY twice certainly be so once again when he breaks Jack Nicklaus’s record.
Andre Agassi – If Federer has earned the award in 2000, the last year the Swiss genius won three Slams, this would be an easy call. But to name the wondrous American, who retired this year after a stellar career before ever choosing the top player in the world would be a bit, well, wrong-footed.
Buck O’Neil – The joyful face of baseball died this season and it could have been a nice, a nostalgic pick. But even too ‘old-old-school for SI.
Barbaro – Please.
Who’s Your Pick?
Visitors to SI.com can see who the mag’s writer thought should be SOY.
Baller: D-Wade, clearly.