It came down to the final possession, and LeBron James switched onto his old friend Dwyane Wade, forcing the future Hall of Famer into an off-balance 3-pointer that caromed off the glass and assured the Los Angeles Lakers a 108-105 win over the Miami Heat on Monday in the final regular-season meeting of the pair’s careers.
James, set up in the one-on-one duel with Wade, didn’t let up. Wade said it was because James knew him so well and had his number.
“He knew my move at the end that stopped me from getting to my shot,” Wade said. “That’s how well we know each other, man. Just two competitors who enjoy the game of basketball, who love each other and love competing. So I’m glad that in my 16 years that we were on the court together, we was in this game, we’ve made a big impact on and off the court.”
Wade’s self-proclaimed “One Last Dance” before he retires at the end of this season, his 16th in the NBA, produced one last enduring moment for the rivals who for a brief stretch of their careers were teammates, as James edged Wade in their 31st and final showdown.
James scored 28 points, and the Lakers survived Wade’s 15-point performance in the second half.
“Sixteen-fifteen!” James said with a smile as he iced down his 33-year-old legs postgame, referring to their head-to-head career record. “Whoo! I got some bragging rights … that I will not use.”
After the buzzer sounded, they shared a hug and a chat to close perhaps the final joint chapter of two careers that have intersected repeatedly since they entered the NBA together in 2003.
“I knew at some point after the game it was going to hit me that this would be the last time we was competing against each other, and it hit me right away once the buzzer sound,” Wade said. “And we got an opportunity on the court just to look at each other and be like, ‘Man, this has been fun, this has been one helluva ride,’ and we’ve enjoyed it together.”
Wade and James teamed up with the Heat in 2010 to win two championships and reached four consecutive NBA Finals, and they spent half of last season together in Cleveland.
“Obviously, without D-Wade in my career, I wouldn’t be sitting here with this résumé that I have,” James told ESPN before showering and dressing for a postgame dinner with Wade. “Individually, I think I would still be doing my thing individually, but as far as me accomplishing the team goals that truly mean most to me? Twenty-seven wins in a row. Four straight Finals. Two back-to-back championships. It goes without saying. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it without him.”
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SOURCE: ESPN, Dave McMenamin