Basketball fanatics are constantly spending their time debating who is better: Kobe Bryant or LeBron James?
However, what about Dwyane Wade?
Flash has the stats, the swagger, and the pretty little rock on his finger indicating his undying union to Championship lore.
Now, before Lakers fans get into a tizzy, yes, Bryant also has the hardware. I also acknowledge that he is one of the best players in the league right now. Nonetheless, he has probably reached his peak in terms of his skill level, so he is, for purposes of this debate, excluded.
The first great debate about NBA players I can remember, was the one regarding who was better between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Later, there came the Jordan vs. Bird comparisons, but that didn’t have the same feel.
For one, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird both came into the league the same season (1979-80), whereas Jordan entered the NBA a few seasons later. Like Magic and Bird, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade entered the NBA together (2003-04), and like Magic and Bird, their names will forever be linked.
Both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came flying out of the gates their first season in the NBA; as did LBJ and Flash. Both won multiple championships (Magic 5, Bird 3); and while LeBron has yet to win a title and Wade has, many agree it’s likely both will end their careers with multiple titles.
Magic Johnson won two of his titles with the Lakers by beating Bird’s Celtics, while Larry Legend trumped Magic only once in the Finals. The only problem with the comparison to the Magic vs. Bird debate in talking about LeBron vs. D-Wade, is that both LBJ and Flash play in the same Conference.
They’ll probably never meet in the Finals, which is part of what made the Magic vs. Bird debate and rivalry so legendary.
However, since their careers are likely to closely mirror each other in terms of the time-span and era they play in, the LeBron vs. Flash debate seems better than the LeBron vs. Kobe one. After all, Bryant was winning NBA titles when James was winning high-school championships; so Bryant’s three rings didn’t come at the expense of ‘King’ James.
In his first two seasons, LeBron wasn’t able to elevate his team to the post-season. Wade, on the other hand, has only missed the playoffs once in his career (Miami’s debacle of a season last year). Nevertheless, this year the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be playing at a level light-years ahead of the Miami Heat; despite the heroic performances of ‘Flash’
To put it succinctly, the Cavs are on the rise, while the Heat are in flux.
On the other hand, D-Wade won the crown in only his third season, while LBJ went out in the second round that year. Also, when James did make it to the Finals, his Cavs were swept away by Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
Of note though, is the fact that LeBron James’ single-handed dismantling of the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals that year could be considered better than any single game performance D-Wade has exhibited in the playoffs.
Obviously Dwyane Wade and LeBron James haven’t yet met in the playoffs, so we can’t tell how they would size up against each other in a best-of-seven battle. Then again, everyone knows they are both the type of players who would take on the personal challenge of guarding each other if, and when, such a contest happens. Here’s hoping it’s soon.
One other thing of note is that Wade has had more help along the way than James. This includes a big assist from Shaq; who also was instrumental in Bryant having regular ring-sizing appointments three years straight.
LBJ, on the other hand, has had bit players for the better part of his career, and no real superstars to ride shotgun.
Probably the least important part of the debate between these two great players are the actual stats they put up. Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, we should compare them. Frankly, they’re more similar than many might think:
2008-09 NBA Season
LeBron James – 28.4
Dwyane Wade – 29.0
LeBron James – 7.4
Dwyane Wade – 5.0
LeBron James – 7.0
Dwyane Wade – 7.4
LeBron James – 1.8
Dwyane Wade – 2.1
LeBron James – 1.2
Dwyane Wade – 1.4
LeBron James – 49.0%
Dwyane Wade – 48.6%
LeBron James – 77.4%
Dwyane Wade – 76.4%
LeBron James – 32.1%
Dwyane Wade – 28.0%
Minutes Per Game
LeBron James – 37.2
Dwyane Wade – 38.2
With all of this information, it’s difficult to definitively swing the pendulum in favor of one over the other; which is exactly the point.
LeBron came into the National Basketball Association with all the hype one can imagine; and has surpassed it. Wade, on the other hand, was far less touted when coming out of college, but has proven he deserved just as much hype.
In the end, LeBron vs. D-Wade, ‘King’ James vs. ‘Flash’, or however you want to put it, will be the debate that carries the NBA into the future, not LeBron vs. Kobe.