When it comes to the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, there is a pretty clear cut top-three in Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, and Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.
For the most part, Wade is viewed as a level below the other two, but in the mind of Pat Riley, there was a stretch where he was just as good, if not better than Bryant at least.
Wade’s initial run to superstardom is connected to Bryant in a way as it was the trade of Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers to the Heat that made his team a championship contender and Bryant struggled to reach the playoffs. When Wade led the Heat to the 2006 NBA championship, he was a bonafide star who put forth one of the greatest Finals performances ever.
And it is at that point that Riley believes Wade was the best player in the world, even ahead of Bryannt due to his impact in winning a championship, via Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck:
For about a three-year span Wade was, in Riley’s view, “the best player in the world.”
“Dwyane was better than Kobe at that time,” Riley says. “He had a better year by having the impact on winning—in the Finals, in the biggest moments, on the biggest stage. And you get that moniker.”
Coincidentally, it was around this time that many believe Bryant was at his absolute best. His 2005-06 season is viewed as one of the best individual seasons ever as he finished fourth in MVP voting, but had the second-most first place votes, and scored the most points in a season by anyone not named Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain.
Of course, even Bryant would concede that it’s all about winning and championships and at that time the Heat were championship contenders while the Lakers were being eliminated in the first round. Even still, one would be hard-pressed to find many others aside from Riley who would place Wade ahead of Bryant during that time.