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Playing the Magic brings comfort to Dwyane Wade

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Through the ebbs and flows of the last 14 years, Dwyane Wade has been a constant thorn in the side of Orlando

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Miami Heat via the 2003 NBA Draft, Dwyane Wade has been an NBA superstar personified. For a generation of kids in the early 2000s, the 12-time All Star has been the model of how an NBA player should behave.

His physical game echoes the violence and grit of his birthplace, Chicago.

His off-court swagger and celebrity lifestyle certainly mirrors his adopted home, Miami.

Among such impressionable youth was once former Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who saw Wade turn from idol, to mentor, to defensive assignment as he came into his own in the league.

In fact, Oladipo was one of 16 Magic players tasked with stopping Flash since he joined the league, none of which found much success.

During Wade’s 44 games against the Magic, DeShawn Stevenson, Cuttino Mobley, Steve Francis, Grant Hill, Keith Bogans, Courtney Lee, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, Arron Afflalo, E'twaun Moore, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja (remember that one?), and Jeff Green (let’s try to forget that one) all lined up opposite from Number Three at tipoff.

During that stretch Wade has personified “Magic killer”, a supremely talented player who delights in imposing his will upon his neighbors in the 407.

“You know, I’ve always enjoyed playing Orlando,” said Wade, following the Bulls’ 100-92 win at the Amway Center on Tuesday. “When I was in Miami for those 13 years, it was like a home game. Coming up here, a lot of Heat fans. And vice versa coming down there they had a lot of Orlando fans, so it was always a good environment.”

With 21 points on Tuesday night, his career total against the Magic climbed to 1141 – the most against any team by over 80 points. In fact, even in such a huge sample size as a divisional rival, Wade’s 25.9 points per game against the Magic are still his highest versus any Eastern Conference foe.

The dynamic guard has been held to single digits only once against Orlando – during March of his rookie year when he was coming off the bench. Likewise, his first 50-point game came in the friendly confines of the Amway Arena in 2009. When coupled with his 48-point performance in 2007, two of Wade’s top-five scoring games have been against the Magic.

In a word, the now Chicago Bull described it as comfortable.

“So me coming back here this time it felt comfortable,” said Wade. “The hardest thing with switching teams is trying to find comfort, and this is a comfortable place because I played so many games here right up the street.”

Wade’s 28-16 record against the Magic is far from one-sided, and equally far from the 37-win mark that Paul Pierce can call the best in NBA history. Even still, each win and loss seemed to mean a little more against his Floridian rivals.

It was an easy measuring stick to peer down I-95 and see Wade explode onto the scene, shadowed by one of the most controversial figures in Magic history – Shaquille O’Neal. The duo would play a huge part in winning eight of Wade’s first nine games against Orlando before the tables shifted back in their favor.

When Dwight Howard came into his own, the Magic reeled off a 9-3 run against the Heat. It would be Orlando’s turn to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, and Central Florida’s turn to reign over Miami in the basketball world.

Wade would have the last laugh, however, as his pairing with LeBron James could not have come at a worse time for the freshly rebuilding Magic. Since late in the 2011 season, Wade’s Heat and Bulls teams have won 14 of his last 16 games against Orlando, cementing his legacy as a Magic killer.

Though he has worn the colors of the evil empire down south, it’s hard to knock Dwyane Wade’s legacy.