Broken Tackle's Blog
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Here's the thing about Dwyane Wade. He's not punk rock. He's also not not punk rock.

This concept may or may not make sense. But we'll get back to that in a minute.

Wade returned to practice yesterday for the first time since dislocating his shoulder about six weeks ago, and is expected to return to game action before the regular season ends on April 18th.

As Mark Twain would likely remark if he were alive today, "The reports of the Heat's demise were greatly exaggerated." And he would probably add: "Someone please deliberate to me posthaste the origin of this blinking box containing movable type! Com-poo-ter? What in the sam hill?" Or something like that.

This could be the last chance for this ever-so-short Heat dynasty, as Shaq is not nearly the force he used to be, the supporting cast needs to be reloaded and Pat Riley may soon be giving way to Billy "Dunn-a-von" as head coach and GM. Who in the East can stop a healthy Wade and Shaq? Probably not the Pistons, Bulls or Cavs, that's for sure. In other words, try not to sprain your ankle hopping back on the Heat championship bandwagon.

But.

To further the point about Dwyane Wade not being punk rock. He's also not not punk rock. Wade is somewhere in the middle, a pure spirit probably influenced by his abundance of casual time spent with Shaquille O'Neal. (Shaq is decidedly punk rock. About 96% punk rock. Giving yourself nicknames is not punk rock, and yet Shaq somehow pulls it off. He's just that unmistakably punk rock).

The NBA culture is funny these days. In the minds of much of society, the stars of the NBA are a personification for the frightening ne'er-do-well underground culture of hip-hop America. Yet most major NBA stars are either prudent Madison Avenue brokers (Lebron James, Kevin Garnett), eccentric goof-balls (Gilbert Arenas, Dwight Howard... some call this class of players punk rock, but it's in that sporadic sense, like when people call Sonic Youth a punk band), really tall dorks (Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki), posers (Carmelo Anthony, Vince Carter) or negligibly batshit insane sociopaths (Ron Artest, Zach Randolph).

These are not the kids you thought were cool in high school.

Imagine if a Martian came down to Earth and asked you to summarize Kobe Bryant in two sentences or less. Could you do it without using the terms "calculated" and/or "insecure"? I'd be willing to bet Gilbert Arenas ten bucks you can't.

It's been like this in the NBA ever since the early 80's when Magic and Bird "revived" the fledging league. Basketball was without a doubt punk rock in the 70's, dominated by eccentric badasses like Julius Erving, Willis Reed, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, Bill Walton and Artis Gilmore. But off-court discretions and on-court masturbational (sic?) play detached much of America. Nowadays, if pro football is rock-and-roll (you can say you don't love it, but saying you hate it means you hate America) and pro baseball is pop music (beloved by all, to different extents, whether you want to admit it or not), then pro basketball is jazz music, the semi-marginal sport everyone can respect but a select few obsess over.

But the athletes themselves inherit a certain level of disdain, no matter how immaculate and non-punk rock their actual persona may be. Lebron James' recent "shoe controversy" just alludes to his spiritual inheritance of the Michael Jordan propensity to sacrifice individuality for corporate image. This isn't necessarily a bad thing or even really a judgment on Lebron's character as a person. But it does mean he's not punk rock.

There are very few NBA stars in the last quarter century who are or were truly punk rock, most notable among them: Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel and Dennis Rodman. They did things the way they felt like doing things and that's an admirable quality in an otherwise contrived society.

Which brings us back to Dwyane Wade.

Dwyane Wade does several commercials. But Dwyane Wade does those commercials with a sense of caustic detachment, as if to tell the consumer "Yep, I'm schilling myself for this product, but I actually use it, and I couldn't care less if you do now too just because I suggested you should."

Dwyane Wade also comes off as something of a dork. In a genuine way.

If Wade leads the Heat to the title again this year with his injured shoulder (and by all means, he probably should have had surgery performed on it by now); and if Wade performs this task with the same disengagement he affords to his commercial acting; then Dwyane Wade could possibly be punk rock.

The jury's out, as they say.

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