- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 5, 2013

MIAMI (AP) - Dwyane Wade needed a moment to think before giving his answer.

The question was about how many NBA franchises in his lifetime had won back-to-back championships, so he tilted his eyes toward the ceiling and started running through the list in his head.

“That’s a small number. It’s tough,” Wade said. “Obviously, it’d be the Bulls. The Lakers. The Pistons. And is it the Spurs? No, the Rockets. Wow, that’s tough.”

Here’s what’s tougher: Actually making that list.

Such is the opportunity that Wade and the Miami Heat have now, for the second time. After Wade won his first title in 2006, the Heat were swept in the first round of the following year’s playoffs _ when the San Antonio Spurs wound up taking over as the NBA’s kings, needing the minimum four games to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and a far less experienced LeBron James in the 2007 finals.

The Spurs are back in the finals for the first time since winning that crown, and will soon get their chance to keep Wade, James and the Heat from joining the back-to-back club.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday night in Miami, and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich _ who has won four titles, none of them in consecutive years _ knows what the Spurs will be facing against the reigning champions.

“They are not just athletic. They are intelligent in what they do,” Popovich said. “They execute on both an individual basis and a team basis. That’s what makes them good.”

Four more wins and the Heat would be more than good _ they’d have to be considered elite.

Chicago won three straight titles twice during the Michael Jordan era, with Houston winning in the two seasons during that eight-year span where it wasn’t the Bulls spraying champagne after the final game. Detroit won two straight just before Jordan’s reign started, and the Los Angeles Lakers have successfully defended titles four times in the last quarter-century.

San Antonio won its four crowns in a nine-year span, but never managed to pull off two in a row _ not even two finals appearances in a row, for that matter. Here’s a great example of how tough it is to remain atop the NBA mountain: the Boston Celtics, with the most titles in NBA history, haven’t gone back-to-back since 1968 and 1969.

“I mean, anytime you can get to the finals two years in a row is tough,” said Wade, who’ll be making his third straight finals appearance and fourth overall. “But to win it back to back? I remember Michael Jordan saying winning your first title is the toughest. And in some ways it’s very tough to win that first one. But I personally think it’s tougher to win the next one, because now you’ve finally gave everything to win that first one.”

This postseason is certainly proving to be tougher for Wade.

A bruised right knee has dogged him now for the better part of three months. In the beginning, the official word was that the ailment was minor and the hope was that it could clear up with a bit of rest. Obviously, that’s not exactly the case.

Wade is averaging only 14.1 points in the playoffs on 45 percent shooting. He’s getting to the foul line, on average, 3.9 times per game in these playoffs, or less than half of what he managed in his first eight postseasons.

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