The end of an era unfolded at Staples Center on Monday, with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James facing off against Miami Heat guard and fellow 2003 NBA draftee Dwyane Wade for the final time in their illustrious careers.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Wade bounced back with a vintage performance in the second half that kept Miami within striking distance of a win.
His efforts fell short as James again led Los Angeles to a comeback victory in the fourth quarter, giving him 16 wins in 31 head-to-head matchups against his former teammate and good friend.
With the Lakers sporting a slim 108-105 lead late in the fourth quarter, it was only fitting that James and Wade defended one another on the final possessions. Wade forced James into a tough shot that he missed, keeping the Heat in the game.
Then with Miami down by three, the ball was in Wade’s hands for their final possession. He ultimately missed what would’ve been a game-tying 3-pointer with James defending him, but still cherished the last moments.
“Yeah, I demanded it,” Wade said. “This was the last time I was going to be able to guard him, so I waited to the end. He knows my moves just like I know his moves. If it was going to be an iso, I knew what he wanted to do when he called a pick on me. I just wanted to enjoy the competition for the last time.”
James believes he matched up well with Wade on the final possession given their extensive history together. “He knows my tendencies, and I know his tendencies,” James said.
“On the other end, he didn’t allow me to go left. He forced me right, made me take a difficult shot, missed it. And then coming back, I know he likes to go left as well. He was like, ‘Why the hell did you take away my left hand?’
“We’ve been watching each other for so long. I watched him when he was at Marquette and he watched me when I was in high school and throughout the league. Obviously, we trained together every day when I was in Miami for four years. We know each other more than actually we even know ourselves.”
After the game, James expressed his gratitude to Wade and deemed their partnership in Miami necessary in order for him to win his first NBA championship.
James also extended Wade an invitation to work out with the Lakers and offer guidance to the young core when his playing career officially concludes at the end of the season.