Step Brothers: the Last Family Gathering
Tonight we will see what is expected to be the true end of an era. A legacy of friendship, sportsmanship, and some damn good basketball. When you hear the names LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, you should think of greatness if you know anything about basketball. These two athletes have torn up the NBA since they were both drafted in 2003. LeBron James was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers that year straight out of high school. LeBron was the most sought after talent at such a young age. He is one of the few final stars that skipped college like players such as Kobe and Kevin Garnett. Dwayne Wade was selected 5th overall in that draft by the Miami Heat after playing college ball at Marquette. The two were instantly stars in the NBA, and throughout their careers proved that they would not be busts, but that they would be future Hall of Famers.
The King and D-Wade are worthy of the recognition they have received. The best part is these two monstrous school girls have done it all together. I know they haven’t been teammates their whole career, I’m talking about their friendship off the court buddy. Yeah you in front of the screen. Anyway, these two probably have the most prolific friendship in sports. I mean what better athletic dream can you have than making it as a pro with your best friend in the sport you love? They have done it, and done it well. When they entered the league, they instantly hit it off as rookies and continued the friendship. They got closer and closer through matchups they would have, all star games, and especially just hanging out as friends, visiting regularly.
LeBron and Dwayne are the god fathers of each others kids, which is something to look closer at. There was a time in Wade’s life that he had dealt with some difficulties family wise and was in a bad spot while trying to balance a career and his family. Who did he reach out to? LeBron. Wade has credited LeBron with being his biggest support and helping guide him through fatherhood. With Wade having LeBron and now the stunning Gabrielle Union, I’d say he’s doing alright. Wade and James have become uncles and brothers through that bond. Now both Wade and James’ sons are high profile high school prospects, following in their pops’ footsteps. They are still to this day very active in each others families lives and continue to connect in the offseason every year.
As a player, LeBron was a cavalier from 2003-2009. In 2010 he released the biggest blockbuster free agent signing news in NBA history. He then “took his talents to south beach” and joined forces with D-Wade. The Heat also signed Chris Bosh, creating a “big three”. LeBron had yet to win a championship, and thought he could do it with his homeboys, including Wade who had already won a finals and finals MVP in 2006. In his four year stint with Miami, they went to four straight NBA finals. They lost to the Mavericks in 2010, then won back to back championships against the Thunder and Spurs, then lost against the Spurs a year later in 2013. That time was clearly both of their primes and the best basketball I may have ever seen. Their chemistry on the court was clearly influenced by their friendship off of it.
In 2014, LeBron returned to Cleveland to head to another four straight finals and a championship with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in 2016. Wade toughed it out in Miami until 2016, where he decided to join the Bulls in his home town of Chicago, Illinois. James was clearly happy for Wade going home, since he jumped the Miami ship to return to his for some “unfinished business”. Wade only lasted one year in Chicago. The reason? So that he could rejoin LeBron in Cleveland in 2017. The two were happy to be playing together again. Apparently a lot happier than the Cavs front office, since they traded Wade early in the season back to his beloved Heat. I find it almost poetic in a way, because I think everyone knew that Miami is where Wade was always supposed to be. He will be with the Heat tonight facing off against LeBron and his new running mates at he Staples Center.
I have big expectations for this, because it will most likely be the last time these guys play against each other since Wade announced he will retire after this season. Wade was asked about this final emotional meet and was quoted saying “Out of all the players in the league, Bron is one of my closest friends”. Wade also added “It definitely will mean a little bit more, and just everything in our careers. The paths that we both went down as competitors versus each other and as teammates, we’ll always be linked together forever. So, it will definitely mean a lot. It’s the ending of a chapter in both of our lives. This is just the end of a chapter as competitors on the basketball court.” LeBron was also asked about their final matchup and said “It’s sweet and sour. The sweet part about it is I’ve always loved being on the same floor with my brother. We struck up a relationship together at the combine in 2003, and it started from there. And the sour part about it is that this is our last time sharing the same court.” Clearly these two love each other as teammates and friends, which I think makes for a great storyline for this game. On most nights, a Heat vs Lakers game wouldn’t draw much attention. This game will be special. A sold out crowd is scheduled to show up for all the fanfare. An added bonus to this friendly rivalry is that they have had 30 matchups against one another and have each won 15 games. This 31st game will break the tie and I’m sure will come with plenty of bragging rights on their next vacation. I think these guys are gonna play with heart and perform their best basketball of the season. All eyes of every fan should be on this game tonight. Games like this are rare, and you don’t want to be the guy who missed it.
Growing up, these were two of the five main guys in the league for me so this will be somewhat nostalgic. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are two of the greatest athletes in the entire history of basketball. They have had a movie type of friendship. Teammates, champions and soon to be Hall of Famers together. I and many others are going to miss these “good old days” type of games, but are hopeful that we will see this rivalry become renewed with their sons in the future someday.