Dwyane Wade dropping to no.5 in the ’03 draft was a turning point for the organization. The addition of Wade had Miami making the playoffs in his rookie season, after missing the post-season for two years straight. Pat Riley took charge of building a team around young Dwyane Wade after he had shown a lot of promise in his first year in Florida.
Right in that time, the league’s best duo in Kobe and Shaq had reached a peak of their dysfunction. It resulted in O’Neal requesting a trade, to none other than the Heat. Years later, Diesel admitted that the main pull-factor for going to Miami was the opportunity to play with a young fella named Dwyane Wade.
The addition of Diesel put the Heat right in that group of teams who are good enough to win the title. What they did in their first season together supported that statement, as they finished as a number one seed in the Eastern Conference by winning 59 games. The Heat continued their dominance in the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping both series against the Nets and the Wizards. They ended up getting bounced in the conference finals by the Pistons in a 7 game series but had shown enough to be considered a true title contender the next year.
The 2005-06 regular season played out a similar way as the previous one; the Heat had won 52 games and finished as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Bulls and the Nets in the first two rounds of the playoffs, they were once again matched up with the Pistons. This time, the Heat got the best of them, advancing to the NBA Finals after a tough six-game series.
That leads us to one of the most controversial Finals in NBA history; the 2006 NBA Finals series vs. the Mavericks. Dallas had home-court advantage and took care of business in the first two games. They did it in a dominating fashion, and it seemed that they’d set the tone for the rest of the series, as they were up 2-0 heading to Miami.
However, it was a whole different story when the series shifted to Florida. Game 3 finished with a two-point victory by the Heat. The story of the game was Dwyane Wade attempting 18 free throws, while the whole Dallas roster attempted 26. It wasn’t the case in game 4, but the Heat were still able to blow out the Mavs by 24, tieing up the series at two apiece.
However, it was game 5 that got everyone talking. The Heat were able to scrape out a one-point victory, with Wade winning the game at the line. Wade hit the first free throw, tieing the game with 1.9 left on the clock. Dallas had one time-out left, as insurance to inbound the ball from half-court. Then, out of nowhere, a time-out was called by the Mavs. It turned out it was called by Josh Howard, as a result of a misunderstanding with coach Johnson. At the time, the sequence was seen as controversial, but it may have just been a communication error between the coach and his player. Nevertheless, Wade drained the second shot from the charity stripe, putting the Heat up 3 to 2.
Other than the controversial time out, the story of the game was once again free throws. Wade alone attempted 25 of them, as did the whole Mavericks team. After the game, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban was fined $250,000 for “going onto the floor to vent directly to official Joe DeRosa, screaming toward Stern and a group of league officials in the stands, then using profanity during a post-game session with reporters.“
The pattern continued in a decisive game 6. The Heat once again came out on top, and Wade was once again awarded an unhealthy amount of free throw attempts. He shot 21 of them, with Miami as a team going to the line 14 times more than Dallas.
What started off as a great series for the Mavs, ended with four consecutive wins by the Heat. The way it happened was suspicious for some, as Miami’s great efforts were stained with the number of free throws they were awarded. The disparity was evident; for the series, the Heat attempted 207 free throws compared to the Mavs who went to the line 155 times. Wade alone had his number of free throw attempts close to triple digits, attempting 97 of them. He has always been a player who knows how to draw foul, even sell it from time to time. But the disproportion was too much for some.
The one who had the toughest time dealing with it was Marc Cuban. He even so far as consulting retired FBI agent Warren Flagg, seeking advice from a 20-year veteran of the bureau.
“Cuban asked me what he should do. I told him, ‘Sue and you’ll win your case,’ but he knew he’d be killing the Golden Goose.”Warren Flagg
Cuban didn’t sue the NBA, but word on the street is it’s best not to mention ’06 Finals around him. It’s been 14 years, but he’s still cool about it.