MIAMI (Reuters) - The Miami Heat are three wins away from becoming just the fifth team in the history of the NBA to win 20 or more games in succession and for the team’s longest-serving hero, Dwyane Wade, the moment merits some reflection.
So often those in sport respond to questions about statistical achievements with the standard refrain about taking it one game at a time and focusing on the present, not the broader significance of what the numbers mean.
Wade, the Heat’s all-time top scorer, is however a player who has a great appreciation of the game and its history, frequently recalling great moments, players and teams from the NBA’s past.
“This is special, no question about it. It is always great to be in the company of historic parts of the game,” he told reporters.
“This is one of those teams that (we will look back on) years and years from when we retire”.
The record regular-season winning streak in the NBA is 33 games, set by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971-72.
Before Friday’s 102-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Wade, who has been with the Heat since he was drafted in 2003 out of Marquette, was casually watching the league’s television channel which frequently broadcasts classic games from the past.
Wade caught footage of the Orlando Magic team of the early 1990s which featured his former Heat team mate Shaquille O‘Neal, Dennis Scott and ‘Penny’ Hardaway.
”I looked at those guys who played together...I wondered what their stories were, the moments they had and shared.
“That is what we are going to be like, one day we will all be away from this game and we will have times where we will talk about these moments we are creating right now - hopefully they are special, something we can all be proud of,” he said.
Wade won one championship with Miami in 2006 when he was the leading light of the team alongside O‘Neal. In the finals he scored 42, 36, and 43 points in games three, four and five as Miami came back from a 2-0 deficit to eventually win the title, with Wade earning the finals MVP award.
His second title came last year in a very different team and as part of the ‘Big Three’ alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Far from feeling resentful about losing his ‘sole leader’ position on a team which is inevitably dominated by the remarkable James, Wade said he was more than happy to take reduced minutes as part of the broader team effort.
“Do you want to try to lead the league in scoring or be part of a special team? What we have in this locker-room is way better than seasons where I had to carry the load and had a lot of people patting me on the back,” he said.
“Any given night, anyone can lead this team to victory - that feels better. It’s not easier, we have to play just as hard, if not harder, to get wins but its more enjoyable this way,” he said.
The victory over Philadelphia made the Heat (46-14) the league’s first team to clinch a playoff spot - with 22 games remaining.
Sunday sees the Heat play the last team to beat them, the Indiana Pacers, who physically dominated Miami in an 102-89 win on February 1.
Indiana, who proved a tough challenge for the Heat in last year’s play-offs, which Miami won 4-2, are second in the East, eight games behind Miami.
“Now, it’s our turn. We’re at home. We have to take care of business,” said Wade.
Editing by Clare Fallon