For the last four years, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were having fun playing basketball together with the Miami Heat and taking part in postgame photobombs. Now, with LeBron heading back to Cleveland, Wade will still have an affinity for his former teammate, but in a different way.
Speaking to reporters at Chicago's Dwyane Wade and Brandon Marshall Sports Academy, per Brandon Di Perno and Surya Fernandez of SB Nation, via Stephen Ronkowski of Windy City Gridiron, Wade was asked who his favorite opponent is to play against:
"Well, it used to be Kobe Bryant...the second best all time...now, I have a new favorite player to play against...my former teammate, LeBron James."
The first part of the quote may be the more notable takeaway: Wade called Kobe Bryant the second-best player of all time.
Some analysts, like Charles Barkley during a June appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, will tell you that Bryant is still better than LeBron because of the number of championship rings he has:
I always find it fascinating...'Did [Kobe] die or something?' because LeBron has two championships, and they just forget that Kobe has five. And they’re like how good is he compared to Michael Jordan, I say Kobe still has more. I think he’s closer to catching Kobe than he is Michael.
Barkley says LeBron is close to Kobe, but how many times has LeBron been on the best team in basketball? How about Bryant?
The fact that LeBron has been to the NBA Finals five times—once as a one-man show in Cleveland, another just last season with no depth versus an incredibly deep San Antonio squad—is more indicative of his greatness.
There's not going to be a blood feud between Wade and LeBron, like there was with the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls in the late '80s and early '90s, but watching the Cavs and Heat play will be must-see TV.
Of course, LeBron will have a decided advantage, at least individually.
Wade, 32, is coming off an 11-year career-low 32.9 minutes per game, in which he only played in 53 games in order to be fresh for the playoffs. His per-game averages: 19.0 points (lowest since his rookie season), 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.5 blocks (career low) and 1.5 steals. He did shoot 54.5 percent from the field, however, which was a career high.
LeBron, 29, averaged 28.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game against the Spurs in the NBA Finals. For the season, he notched 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.3 blocks and 1.6 steals. Like Wade, he also shot a career-high 56.7 percent from the field.
Regardless of where these two players rank in their respective careers, we should expect exciting basketball when the two match up.
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