If you're a Miami Heat fan, this offseason has been indescribable. I'll be the first to admit that I believed Dwyane Wade would re-sign, with Chris Bosh joining him to form a dynamic duo in South Beach.
The potential to acquire LeBron James, however, was little more than a fairytale to me, and I was certain I believed more in Santa Claus than LeBron playing for the Heat next season.
Now that LeBron has arrived, I've struggled with the concept of who the alpha-dog will be.
An incredibly controversial question has plagued my mind, and I'm determined to share my thoughts with NBA fans around the world.
Is LeBron James truly better than Dwyane Wade?
However, before I continue, I must provide a disclaimer. If you're a media-obsessed fan who doesn't know how to engage in independent thought, I suggest you stop reading here.
This is not the article for those who believe everything they hear, without deciding what is fact and fiction for themselves.
When it comes to comparing LeBron and Wade, there are two distinct tales of each superstar. In one corner you have the unbelievably talented James, a player who has been in the spotlight since he was barely an adolescent. In the other corner is Wade, a star in his own right, who has built a legacy on hard work and drive.
LeBron's individual talent speaks for itself. At the forefront of his legacy is his unworldly athleticism. Never before has basketball seen an athlete with his physical capabilities. His combination of size, height, and strength is unmatched, and he may well be the greatest athlete to play in the league.
It doesn't stop there, though, as he has the basketball smarts to match. This is seen through his outstanding playmaking ability and anticipation on the court.
It is incredibly rare that a player with even half his athleticism has the pure basketball ability to go with it.
Don't forget his versatility though. LeBron can legitimately play four out of five positions on the floor, and can fill the role of playmaker, designated scorer, or defensive stopper when needed.
The commentator quote, "He makes that look so easy!" is often overused, but in the case of LeBron, it encapsulates just about everything he does on the court.
His on-court abilities have translated to great success, as LeBron is a repeat winner of the Regular Season MVP Award and has a long list of accolades as well. He's already been selected to All-Star and All-NBA teams six times, all before his 26th birthday.
The question that needs to be asked though, is how much of our perspectives regarding LeBron's greatness is artificial?
If there is anything the American public loves, it's a hero. LeBron has essentially fit that mold since being thrust into media limelight as a junior in high school. Appearances in SLAM Magazine and Sports Illustrated were only the beginning, as LeBron has been the object of intense media attention for almost the last decade.
Describing the amount of fanfare, media attention, and marketing that have surrounded LeBron is a task of epic proportions. We're talking about the man who was marked the future of basketball before his 18th birthday.
That's right, the same man who signed a contract with Nike in excess of $90 million before playing his first regular season game in the league.
For the greater part of the last decade, the marketing of the "LeBron James image" has been incredibly powerful. James has been the superman of the NBA, as well as the face of Nike, and as such, has become one of the most well-known men in the world.
I'm not talking exclusively about basketball players, athletes, or celebrities. I'm talking about LeBron being in the handful of most well-known people in the entire world. Take a moment to stop and think about that. If you need a reference point, the world's population is estimated to be around 6,697,254,041.
Where does that leave our discussion now?
Well firstly, try and dismiss all that your brain has taken from the media and general public perceptions. Judge LeBron based on his accomplishments on the court, and the type of basketball player he has been, instead of the mystical superhero as which he has been packaged.
Now enter Wade into the picture.
Unlike LeBron, Wade didn't receive national attention in high school.
He didn't grace the cover of Sports Illustrated as an 18-year old, and he wasn't predicted to ever be one of the league's brightest stars. He didn't jump straight from high school into the NBA, and he sure as hell didn't receive a multi-million dollar endorsement deal as a teenager.
Instead, Wade played college ball at Marquette and led the Golden Eagles to a berth in the 2003 Final Four, while recording the fourth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history. It was only then, when Wade's abilities were on full display, that he received attention and praise from the media.
By the same measure, Wade has never been the hero of the league.
Don't get me wrong, the NBA has backed him. However, they have also been more than happy to market him as the "sub-star," a step behind LeBron and Kobe Bryant.
Despite this, Wade possesses many of the same on-court strengths that make LeBron great. Wade is a dominating offensive talent who can take over the game at any moment. In addition, Wade is arguably the best in the league at getting into the lane and finishing plays.
Offensively, Wade has the deadly post-up game that LeBron lacks, and is only slightly behind in terms of playmaking and passing ability. Defensively, Wade is just as good at playing the passing lanes and providing highlight-reel blocks on help defense.
What does Wade have though, that could lead us to consider him greater than LeBron?
Unlike LeBron, Wade isn't afraid of the crunch-time.
He relishes in late-game situations, which are nothing more than opportunities to prove that he is capable of stepping up to the plate and delivering a home run.
History shows that Wade has always loved the big moment. Take his game-winner as a rookie against the New Orleans Hornets in the 2004 playoffs. Look at tape of his dominant takeover in Game Three of the 2006 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
YouTube his performance against the Chicago Bulls two seasons ago, which included a three at the buzzer to lift the Heat to a double-overtime win.
Unlike LeBron, Wade has a killer instinct. He has attempted and made an abundance of clutch plays, whether in the regular season, postseason, or international play. Wade has the makeup of a champion, a quintessential drive that makes him emerge as a winner.
That sole attribute is priceless, as it is essentially impossible to obtain if not already a part of the athlete's makeup. It is the same attribute that is often compared to a strand of DNA, a God-given quality, possessed by the likes of Kobe and Michael Jordan.
Unlike LeBron, Wade has never lead his team to the best regular season record. However, he has led his team to capture the greatest prize of them all, an NBA Championship.
Unlike LeBron, Wade does not have any Regular Season MVP's in his trophy cabinet. However, he has a Finals MVP trophy, which shows he has been the best when it counts the most.
If you've managed to read up to this point and openly consider the points I have raised, I commend you. Please continue reading thoroughly, though, as I get to the crux of the article.
At the end of the day, it cannot be denied that Wade has the heart of a champion. This is the same heart that has led us to conclude that Michael was greater than Wilt Chamberlain. It is also the same heart that reveals LeBron is inferior to Kobe.
Despite Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game, and being the most statistically dominant player in league history, Michael's champion heart makes him greater.
Likewise the drive and tenacity of Kobe, two qualities stemming from a champion heart, push him beyond LeBron's statistical domination of this modern era.
Is Wade not then, clearly a notch above LeBron as well?
You need to understand that the heart of a champion is the most dominant, singular trait any athlete can ever possess. It is this trait that has created and sustained the legacies of the very best, pushing them past their contemporaries.
Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Bird, Jordan, Olajuwon, O'Neal, Duncan, Bryant.
Which of the two superstars in discussion will be the next to join that list?
Both have the talent of a champion, but only Wade has the heart of one.