Back then, Dwyane Wade had it all planned it out.

Like others before him, he was set play to high school basketball here in the inner-city. Then maybe, just maybe, he would have avoided having to play catch-up all these years to those who came before him. Some were just as talented, others nowhere near his level.

Wade has won NBA titles, played in All-Star games, collected Olympic medals and currently is part of one of the greatest winning streaks in history. Still, at times he is an afterthought in the basketball annals in his hometown.

Only now is he on the verge of giving the local folks no choice but to accept him as perhaps the greatest player from the city, despite his late-bloom to professional stardom.

Even more so, Wade could deliver a minor sting by earning the distinction after playing his high school ball in the suburbs instead of the city.

"It's always been a knock on guys who played in the suburbs," said Wade, who played at Richards High in Oak Lawn, Ill., about 25 minutes outside the city. "You didn't get as much attention because they think it's not as tough or whatever the case may be. I think I represent the city. Guys are proud of that, but it's something different between guys that go to school in the city and the suburbs."

It is perhaps the last thing preventing him from surpassing Isiah Thomas as Chicago's most celebrated player. When the Heat play the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday at United Center, it could be the last time the locals see Wade in person before his resume trumps Thomas. Unless the teams meet in the postseason, the next time Wade arrives in town the scoreboard might read:

Wade 3, Thomas 2.

As in NBA championships.