Hard to believe, but Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade wasn't even that into basketball-at first, anyway. "I was more of a football kind of guy," the 24-year-old guard confessed to Men's Fitness. "But then my father started taking me to the courts when I was 5, and that's when my passion for the game started." Flash forward 19 years later, and D-Wade has emerged as one of the NBA's most versatile players: All-Star, Olympian, Finals MVP, and 2006 champ. Can Wade and the Heat stage a repeat this season?
MF: Your draft class has been talked about as one of the best in recent years. How much do you talk to LeBron and Carmelo about that?
DW: We used to talk about it a lot during the first two seasons. Now it's kind of self-explanatory. This year, everything has fallen into place, and we all understand that we are the future of the NBA. Now we talk more about the business aspects of what we're gonna do outside the league.
MF: Can the Heat bring another championship to Miami?
DW: That's gonna be our focus. We're gonna be everyone's "big game" because we're the champions. We're gonna try and take care of business during the regular season, and then the playoffs is when you'll really see what we're made of.
MF: What's your relationship like with Shaq?
DW: Off the court, we're good friends. I always said we've got different kinds of relationships. Sometimes, it's like father and son, where Shaq gives me advice. But we're also just boys who kick it and talk. On the court, we're on the same page. He's done a great job of letting me come out and grow on the court and not stopping me from playing to the best of my abilities.
MF: What's it like playing for Pat Riley?
DW: When he took over, I didn't know what to expect. But now, I see that he wanted us to be more a transition team, and he kind of let me do more. He keeps you calm because he doesn't ever get frustrated on the foul line. We were down 13 with six minutes left in Game 3 [of the NBA Finals], and he was just calm and told us to go out there and take it.
MF: How important do you think it is to keep a strict workout regimen to succeed in the NBA?
DW: Very. Because of the long, grueling season of the NBA, your body takes a beating every night with every game. I don't work out as much during the season, but during the summer, I really hit the weights hard just to get stronger so that I don't run into problems later in the season.
MF: What do you think about all the comparisons between you and the legendary Michael Jordan?
DW: I never feel anyone should be compared to Michael Jordan, because there won't be another him. He was one of the first to change the game (and win championships doing so). He's who I identified with growing up. The way he carried himself on and off the court to me was just . . . phenomenal. There'll never be another Michael, but it's always flattering to be compared to anyone who's known as being great.