Good friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade squared off for the final time when the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Miami Heat at Staples Center.
Of course much of the focus before, during, and after the game was focused on the two legends, but the situation brought another Lakers legend to the mind of Wade: Kobe Bryant.
It was just a couple years ago that Wade faced Bryant for the final time ever, and it also happened at Staples Center. That game saw the Lakers come out on top, 102-100, in overtime.
Wade finished with 26 points while Bryant never touched the floor after the first quarter, scoring just two points. Regardless of the outcome, Kobe retiring affected many in the league who idolized him and Wade admitted that a void was created, per Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“When I had my last matchup against Kobe here, it meant something to me. It was the end of an era for me. It was the end of someone to chase for me from a two-guard standpoint, so I lost a little piece of me when that happened.”
Great players are always looking for motivation to keep pushing themselves to be better. As Wade noted, he viewed Kobe as someone to chase from a shooting guard standpoint. Bryant being around gave Wade a goal to continue to push for and that was lost.
James is likely viewed the same way now that Bryant was by Wade. Young stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and others see James as the ultimate measuring stick, push themselves to get better in order to take him down, and cherish every chance to match up with him on the court.
Wade himself would probably even admit that he didn’t quite reach Kobe’s level but he came very close. He’s a three-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP who many rank just behind Bryant and Michael Jordan on the all-time shooting guard list.