MUTIANYU, China There's chaos atop the Great Wall of China, and it's all Dwyane Wade's fault.
Well, maybe not all his fault. But the Heat's international superstar is among the more impatient in his group as a painfully slow line for the final segment of the tour a dicey toboggan ride that certainly wouldn't pass Disney safety standards is threatening to turn a once-in-a-lifetime afternoon into a near-torturous experience.
Wade tries a diversion tactic to slip his way to the front of the pack.
"Look, it's Kobe!"
No dice. Not even a mention of China's adopted basketball hero Kobe Bryant could budge this pack.
It's hopeless. Unless, of course, the trusty celebrity card works at this high an altitude.
Has it ever failed? Within moments, Wade and his entire crew, which includes fellow Team USA members Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz, are being ushered to the side entrance. Apparently even the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall has a VIP section.
The troop of nearly 20 has to avoid incoming chairlifts, trust rickety equipment and withstand pushy employees who are trying to get this covert operation completed as quickly as possible.
Only, there's no way to keep it a secret, so the crowd that was once begging for pictures with Wade is now actually booing him. Kind of loudly.
Wade tries to diffuse the situation by doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression "Do it now! Get in the chopper!" until finally a petrified publicist, Lisa Joseph, kicks off the Great exodus by screaming her way down the mountain.
It's a priceless Olympic moment for Wade, who is actually enjoying these Games the second for the 26-year-old and enjoying a personal renaissance following a tumultuous last 18 months.
Four years ago Wade played a minor role on an Olympic basketball team that came home with bronze medals and hanging heads.
And just five months ago, Wade prematurely ended his basketball season with a nagging knee injury that required months of offseason rehabilitation and prompted questions of whether Wade was already past his prime.
If Wade hasn't demonstrated his health thoroughly enough through his recent run of impressive Olympic performances the kind that have helped this version of Team USA dominate like Dream Teams of old his Great Wall performance on this hazy Sunday afternoon can only reinforce it.
It's Wade, after all, who's leading some of the younger legs in the group racing up the steepest climb of the trip.
"Chop 'em" he yells before taking off at full speed up uneven steps designed for people with significantly smaller feet.
"This feels like training camp," he says between heavy breaths on a day Team USA basketball practice was canceled. "I'm gonna ice down as soon as I get to the hotel."
Truthfully, if it were entirely up to Wade, he never would've left the hotel this day.
"I don't have that sightseeing bone in my body," he says.
But after a little convincing, he realized he'd be cheating more than himself if he passed up the chance to see one of the world's seven wonders.
"I wear this band on my hand every day that says, 'From Robbins, Illinois,"' he says, tugging at the black plastic band. "When I sat back and thought about it, all the kids back in Robbins and kids that never had the opportunity to really experience something like this in life, I had to experience it so I can go back and tell them about it. It's the Great Wall."
And it's already way more than he saw in Athens in 2004, when his detached Olympic basketball team lived on a cruise ship that he recalls leaving only twice for personal trips, once to a restaurant and once to the Louis Vuitton store.
This time around, Wade watched Michael Phelps win gold in the 200-meter breaststroke in the Water Cube. He even found his way to an Olympic boxing match.
Now, on the Wall, his sister Tragil is with him, handling the haul with relative ease. So is his cousin Antoine. You might recognize him from his TV cameos. He's the one sitting and laughing with Wade in his improvised commercial for Gatorade's G2. But the Wall is doing a number on him.
"I need a 20, coach," Antoine says, asking for a brief timeout (he actually needed a lengthy one on the bus ride over, suffering from a bit of car sickness).
Wade's sons Zaire, 6, and Zion, 1, aren't here, but their picture is near Wade's heart, on the face of his tag necklace.
Only a couple things could've improved this two-hour tour for Wade.
One, if he actually did hear the Great Wall vendor say "cornbread!" like he thought he did, rather than "cold beer!" which was actually uttered.
And two, if he didn't have to wait the half hour in the toboggan line before figuring out he was important enough, even in the Far East, to skip the annoying formality altogether.
Back at the bottom, autograph and photo seekers appear to be multiplying, but it doesn't keep Wade from bartering for better prices on a Chinese peasant hat and an "I climbed the Great Wall" T-shirt.
Wade's celebrity gets him no special treatment down here, where people making a living pleading for fair prices from tourists. Not even from an older woman trying to sell him a bottle of Gatorade with Wade's likeness on the bottle.
"Hey, that's me," he says, sounding very much like his fans on the Wall when they first saw him.
Then his tone changes when the woman quotes him a price: 10 yuan.
"For a Gatorade? This is me on this. I can get this."
He can also afford it. So 10 yuan it is (about $1.53).
Another couple of pictures for his personal collection and it's back on the bus for Wade. Back to dominating the world's basketball teams rather than touring the world's wonders.
His infinitely enhanced second Olympic experience has just gotten that much better.
"It's about being in a place like this, making it to Beijing, seeing things in life," he says. "Basketball has enabled me to do that.
"This might not be your dream, growing up in Robbins, to go to the Great Wall. But you see where your dream can take you."