At Marquette University, Dwyane Wade is a god. He’s thunder and lightning and pyrotechnics rolled into one transcendent badass. He’s the freaking Golden Eagle pope, the incomparable ambassador of all things MU basketball, and when he takes a crap, it smells like Dove soap and winning.
I know this because I went to Marquette.
One of the first things I did as a freshman back in 2008 was buy a Dwyane Wade t-shirt, and a year later when I got the job as the sports columnist for the Marquette Tribune, I wrote this about him. This is how everybody at Marquette feels. We love the hell out of this guy. We treat him like horny dogs treat fire hydrants and pant legs.
Then the summer of 2010 happened. With the help of Pat Riley, D-Wade did what Lex Luthor never could and took over the world. In the biggest and grandest coup in sports history, the Miami heat landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh, forever changing the NBA and signaling the dawn of Wade’s tragic fall from grace as Marquette’s flawless demigod.
Around the same time, a kid named Jimmy Butler was having a breakout junior year up in Milwaukee.
He wasn’t particularly good at anything, but damn did he work hard and make us smile. I sat next to Jimmy in a couple classes, interviewed him on occasion, and belligerently cheered my ass off when he did something cool.
This guy was what Marquette basketball was about. He wasn’t about flash or cameras or highlights. Just like our coach Buzz Williams, Jimmy showed up and just did his job. He smiled when he played well and practiced harder when he didn’t, and that was that. And we loved him for it.
His rise at Marquette looked like this:
2008-2009: Games Started – 0, MPG – 19.6, PPG – 5.6, RPG – 3.9, SPG – 0.5
2009-2010: Games Started – 34, MPG – 34.3, PPG – 14.7, RPG – 6.4, SPG – 1.3
And then a year later, just when Marquette was really falling for him, he graduated and declared for the draft. I saw some other great, beloved players go during my time at Marquette, like Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward, but when Jimmy left I felt like my girlfriend broke up with me and punched me in the balls.
Yes, I grieved. But then draft night rolled around, and as soon as Mr. Personality himself, David Stern, said “And with the 30th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Ji-“, I lost my mind. I called everybody in my phone. I may have cried, I don’t remember, because I was too busy cleaning up bodily fluids.
The next year, I wrote this column about the experience, which remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
This season Jimmy has become to Chicago what he was for me and so many others when he was at Marquette. And he’s doing something that looks strangely familiar:
2011-2012: Games Started – 0, MPG – 8.5, PPG – 2.6, RPG – 1.3, SPG – 0.3
2012-2013: Games Started – 20, MPG – 26, PPG – 8.6, RPG -4.0, SPG – 1.0
And of course we all know what he’s been doing in the playoffs, playing nearly every minute of every game while defending the human Michael Bay movie that is LeBron James. How does he do it? Because he doesn’t ask questions or make excuses. He does whatever he needs to do and punches the clock. Once again, playing for a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, no-complaining, no-anything coach, Jimmy is thriving.
He is Chicago basketball: a hard-working, blue collar warrior who has no earthly business succeeding but he does anyway.
Which brings me back to Wade.
I’ve got to watch Marquette’s two favorite sons play on the same court during this series, and it’s striking how different the two are. Wade is Hollywood; he’s style and primping and posing. He’s never committed a foul in his life. He dresses like Tommy Hilfigers’ artistic throw-up. If the Heat ever constructed a statue in his honor, it would be of him throwing his hands up in a symbolic F-U to the refs.
Then there’s Jimmy. He is Chicago; just going about his business without even the slightest hint of defiance. Guarding LeBron, guarding Joe Johnson, guarding everyone and anyone, playing 48 minutes three games in a row like he’s powered by a nuclear reactor. But he’s not. It’s all heart. If Chicago built a statue of him, it would be of him in a defensive stance with a smile on his face.
Two players, two very different paths. One with all the talent in the world who ended up becoming a caricature of a himself. The other, a perpetual underdog just trying to live his dream.
If you’re a Marquette fan — hell, if you’re a basketball fan — which one would you cheer for?
Erik is interning with us this summer and is the newest addition to the Bacon Sports team. He loves MMA, has actually received a scar in a bar fight, and once partied with the Milwaukee Bucks. You can follow him on Twitter @erikschmidtmu.
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