“I don’t know,” Dwyane Wade said. “I guess the definition of a rivalry– I don’t know if a lot of guys understand what it really means. To me, a rivalry is not just because you played close games with somebody. It’s somebody who beats you, then you beat them, they beat you in the playoffs… The Pacers are a good team. They fight us tooth and nail no matter what. No matter who’s on the court for them, it’s always a tough game. I can’t say it’s a rivalry, but it’s one of our toughest opponents to play against. But when I think of rivals, I think of Miami-Knicks back in the day. That’s a real rivalry, when you beat guys in the playoffs and then they get your number when they’re not supposed to and you get their number and vice versa. The Pacers never got our number. We actually won all those series. I know it was good for TV, but we won all those. But they’re one of our toughest opponents in the Eastern Conference.”
There were too many flagrant fouls, though. He was, he admits, “dysfunctional in the locker room.” And, of course, he was at the center of the 2004 “Malice at the Palace” brawl against the Detroit Pistons when he played for the Pacers, a reputation-staining incident that he’ll almost certainly never shake. For as good as he was, World Peace was just as volatile and, as a result, he never played with any team longer than five years. “I had to play on other people’s teams so my average went down, my stats went down, less All-Stars, less All-Defensive teams,” he said.
George enjoys being labeled as one of the NBA’s elite and as the Pacers’ franchise player since it fulfills a childhood dream of his. “I’m very comfortable with that,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be in the position where I’m ‘the guy’ for an organization. As a kid, I just didn’t want to be in the NBA, I wanted to be a superstar in this league. “It’s definitely a position I love to be in and I’m just happy to be the face of a good organization. I dreamed of it, but coming from where I come from, it doesn’t happen often. It was just a blessing, that’s all I can say about it.”