It has become the fashion in basketball circles to note that Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is not the landscape-altering player he once was. After 10 seasons of heavy minutes, many responsibilities, and more than a few serious injuries, Wade has looked significantly less explosive and more limited during the Heat's recent championship runs. He's still an essential player to the team, but it's clear that age has caught up with him just a little bit. A younger player would not be dealing with regular knee treatments in the middle of the postseason.
With hindsight, Dwyane Wade says surgery to remove the meniscus from his left knee 11 years ago while he was at Marquette led to the ongoing knee problems he's had with the Miami Heat.
Wade has battled chronic knee issues over his career. He needed a second surgery on his left knee in 2012 and has also battled bone bruises and tendinitis.
Wade said that if more of a long-term approach was used when he had his meniscus surgery in 2002, following his sophomore season, he may not have as many issues today.
"My knee problems and the things I've dealt with started from that," Wade said. "That was  years ago and technology was different and the way you approach things was different.
"At that moment, if everyone looked ahead and said, 'Dwyane's going to have a 20-year career, maybe we should do something different,' maybe I wouldn't have [knee issues]. At that time it was to get me back on the basketball court and do what is best."
The decision obviously didn't derail Wade's career entirely — it's hard to call anything a terrible mistake when it didn't keep the player from becoming a surefire Hall of Famer — but it's easy to see why Wade regrets the decision. In hindsight, it really did limit him, even if it took a full decade for the effects to show. If Wade had taken more time to recover, he may not be having the same issues right now.
On the other hand, it's also possible that sitting out longer at Marquette would have hurt his draft stock, convinced NBA teams that he wasn't a likely star, and caused him to have a very different career. While Wade is smart to note that he sought out instant gratification in 2002, that decision also led to many long-term positives for his basketball life. It's unclear exactly how that course would have changed if he'd gone with a different treatment schedule.
I've never been in the position of these athletes, but the complications of these cause-and-effect relationships likely explain why so many won't admit regrets about past career decisions. When they look back at their history, and the often positive situation in which they ended up, it's unclear how things may have changed if they'd made one different decision. Wade, despite his misgivings, probably made the right call.