by Michael Bradley

He has the ring and the gold. The scoring title and the Finals MVP trophy.

Now, Dwyane Wade has the validation.

How else do you describe what happened this summer, when LeBron James decided that the quickest avenue to an NBA title was to join forces with Wade? He couldn’t do it himself. Didn’t want to join the Bulls. Said no to the Knicks. Cavs? Clippers? Nets? No. Nope. Nyet. Miami and Wade were Highway One.

Can’t blame James, can you? Who in the world wouldn’t want to play with Wade? He handles everything on the to-do list each gaDwyane Wademe, and he does it without seeming as if the world revolves around him. He’ll score 30, but it will be an efficient effort, not some look-at-me performance designed to earn hype and excessive praise. Wade hits the big shots and makes the fancy plays. He also passes, defends, rebounds and leads. That’s the big reason for James’ choice. Lots of guys can pile up the points; Wade is one of the few who makes it seem as if that outcome is the only proper way the game should go.

He plays a position where that isn’t exactly the norm. Look at some of the 2 men in the League, and it’s a wonder they haven’t changed their names to Get N. Mine. If they have less than 10 points at the half, everybody else on the team had better forget about getting the ball after intermission. Wade will score, but he won’t be a pig about it.

Check out his ‘08-09 season, when voters robbed him of the MVP award, because Miami won only 43 games. Only 43 games? Without Wade, the Heat wouldn’t have won five. Did you see that roster? No offense to Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem and Co., but Wade had to do it all. And he did. He won his first scoring title. Became the first player in NBA history under 6-5 to block 100 shots. He averaged 7.5 apg and 5.0 rpg. Wade had better points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks averages than either James or Kobe Bryant, yet they finished ahead of him in the voting. Who votes for this award, hockey fans?

The best part about that season was that Wade didn’t complain a bit. He kept up the hard work, fighting through the nagging injuries and leading a team with some serious holes. Last season, when the undermanned Heat was on the verge of being swept by Boston in the first round of the Playoffs, Wade showed his pride and leadership by dropping 46, outscoring the entire Celtic team in the fourth quarter, 19-15, to avert the quick exit. It didn’t matter that the whole thing was a lost cause; Wade wasn’t going out like that.

He won’t be making a first-round exit this year, since he now has the supporting cast he needs to get back to the top. That’s right: supporting cast. James and Chris Bosh chose to join him. They know how much it will mean to play with a star who does it all. The Promised Land Express is getting ready to roll. Looks like there are some interesting passengers on board.

Engineer Wade is ready to throw down the throttle. Get ready for a wild ride.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 10 9
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 9 8
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 8 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 7 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 7 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 6 7
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3
Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 28 44 6 9
Josh Smith Hawks PF 27 40 8 13
Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 26 26 5 6
Al Jefferson Jazz PF 25 23 7 7
Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 24 NR 8 NR
Chauncey Billups Nuggets PG 23 19 7 5
Tyreke Evans Kings PG 22 NR 6 NR
Danny Granger Pacers SF 21 21 5 5
Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 20 32 6 9
Paul Pierce Celtics SF 19 17 4 4
Joe Johnson Hawks SG 18 20 4 4
Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 17 27 5 8
Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 16 16 5 6
Steve Nash Suns PG 15 22 4 6
Tim Duncan Spurs PF 14 6 4 1
Chris Bosh Heat PF 13 13 3 4
Derrick Rose Bulls PG 12 18 3 4
Brandon Roy Blazers SG 11 10 3 3
Pau Gasol Lakers PF 10 14 2 5
Dirk Nowiztki Mavs PF 9 9 1 2
Deron Williams Jazz PG 8 11 2 2
Chris Paul Hornets PG 7 4 1 1
Carmelo Anthony Nuggets SF 6 7 3 2
Dwight Howard Magic C 5 5 1 1
Dwyane Wade Heat SG 4 3 2 2

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.