SCHMIDT: Wade’s fall from grace

If Dwyane Wade hadn’t explicitly pointed out his banner dangling from the Bradley Center rafters to teammate LeBron James, you would have figured he forgot where he came from.

The 25 points, five assists and career-high 14 rebounds Wade dropped on the Bucks Monday night were downright mean.

Yep, those notorious Miami Heat were in town a few days ago, cruising to an easy 88-78 victory over the struggling Bucks. If you were wondering why the temperature dropped into the low teens and the sun ran away Monday at about 7 p.m., there is your answer. The Heat seem to have that effect on people these days.

For the most reviled collection of prima donna, “look at me,” athletes in history, call it an occupational hazard.

It’s a bit sad to see Wade — Marquette’s most decorated and famous alumnus — become a villain. For seven years, he was our hometown hero, the poster child of Golden Eagle pride. He was Basketball Jesus. Now he’s a pariah. He’s a snake in the grass.

Free agency is to blame for this. The summer of 2010 will forever be known as ground zero of the Heat’s annihilation to every rhyme and rule that tried to prevent the construction of super teams.

We were fools for believing it couldn’t happen, for thinking that three of the league’s greatest players wouldn’t be so cunning and self-deprecating to give up millions of dollars and individual statistics for NBA titles.

We were duped. The world stared blank-faced as Wade, James and Chris Bosh orchestrated this unholy coup of All-Star talent. One night, one decision and the Three Kings were born.

It was bound to happen eventually. I just didn’t think it would be with Wade.

He was a man of loyalty and character, and all signs pointed to him leaving Miami anyway. The weight of carrying a bad team with poor attendance was beginning to grow too heavy.

He could have returned to Milwaukee to play for a rising Bucks team, and he would have become a legend. He could have gone home to Chicago, and still he would have been cherished.

He could have gone to New York, New Jersey or Dallas — it wouldn’t have mattered. Wade still would have been our chosen son. He would have spread the word of Marquette basketball in the way only he could.

Instead, Armageddon struck. Wade suddenly morphed into Lex Luthor and masterminded the whole ordeal, along with Miami Heat linchpin Pat Riley.

In one moment, the reality we knew was turned on its ear. The Miami Heat — Wade’s team — had become basketball’s version of the Black Plague. They were ridiculed and reamed by every media outlet nationwide. Marquette, the house that Wade built, wanted to shrink away into obscurity as its pride and joy grinned devilishly like Dr. Evil. All that was missing was the cat.

Wade put the final nail in the coffin on Monday, delivering a cold-blooded performance to ice the Bucks. Some fans may have thought he was just trying to put on a show for his longtime fans. I know better.

That’s just not who Wade is anymore. He’s not our lovable, huggable school ambassador. Receiving harsh criticism for the first time in his career and having to deal with the burden of winning the championship immediately or being considered a bust seems to have changed him. He’s not playing basketball for fun anymore. He’s playing for keeps.

That’s why his performance against the Bucks seemed malicious to me. Wade was trying to prove a point. Look no further than his pregame gesture at his retired jersey, showing off in front of James as if to say, “Yeah, I built this place. Now I’m going to tear it down.”

Maybe it’s true that home is where the heart is. That’s exactly where Wade stuck his dagger on Monday.