Like Jordan and most of the other leading players in the history of the game, Wade has an innate feel for tempo-what former NBA coach Hubie Brown calls a knack for "playing slow." It enables Wade to cruise the court as if he's in first or second gear while opponents frantically strain to keep up. "I'm always telling Keyon [Dooling, Miami's 25-year-old backup point guard], 'I don't know how you can go that fast,'" says Wade. "If you slow the game down, you're more in control of it."
Wade may have more success controlling matters on the court than off it. Neighborhood kids keep ringing his doorbell in west Miami and waking him up to ask for autographs. He is still taking grief from teammates for being named one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful People this year. "He has no sense of humor," teases Damon Jones. "The only time he makes people laugh is when he gets up and doesn't brush his hair-he's nappy." O'Neal is urging Wade to upgrade his wardrobe and live a more high-profile life away from basketball, but though Wade has agreed to model in a Paris fashion show this summer, he's not interested in having a schedule as frantic as Shaq's. Wade understands that fame can change his life in ways he doesn't want. For example, when longtime friend John Chappetto drove to Detroit in December to visit Wade before a game, he unexpectedly froze up. "I'll be honest with you, I'm star-struck when I'm with him now," says Chappetto, who adds that Wade went out of his way to make him feel comfortable. "Part of me sees him as this superstar, but he doesn't want people to put him on a pedestal."
The same unpretentious quality that draws teammates to Wade in the privacy of the Heat locker room will just as surely pull more and more fans his way. The less he courts fame, in fact, the more famous he may become. "He's just not a guy who jumps around thumping his chest," says Van Gundy. "But I think where his humility really helps him is that he's still looking to get better." For the Pistons, that could be a frightening prospect.