While the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Miami Heat meant close friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade suiting up against one another for a final time, it also provided Josh Hart with an opportunity to face his idol.
Wade was on paternity leave when the Lakers made their annual visit to South Beach, which saw James unleash a 51-point performance on his former team. He made a modest 28 points on Monday night but nonetheless made for entertaining theater at Staples Center.
After missing a game-tying 3-pointer, Wade chased after the rebound and embraced James as the final buzzer sounded. They reveled in the atmosphere of the matchup, reflected on their time as teammates and opponents, and exchanged jerseys.
Other players remained on the court, and after the future Hall of Famers finished talking, Hart was there to share his own moment with Wade. “It was really cool,” Hart said of being part of a noteworthy matchup.
“I mean, he was my favorite player growing up, the reason why I wear No. 3. He’s my role model. This game was crazy. I was able to match up with him a lot down the stretch in the second half. It was a dream come true.”
Wade gifted Hart his game-worn shoes, with a written message that implored the second-year player to continue with his development. “Sometimes it’s tough when you’re playing that 48 minutes to separate those feelings,” Hart said.
“You want to be competitive but it was awesome being in this game.”
Upon completing his postgame interview, Hart walked out of the locker room with Wade’s shoes in hand and the memory of a lifetime.