Throughout the history of the NBA there has always been great one-on-one rivalries. Chamberlain vs. Russell, Bird vs. Magic, Jordan vs. everybody else.
The new generation of rivalries has given the NBA a resurgence and filled the gap M.J. left when he retired for the last time in 2003.
Dwayne Wade and Lebron James – be prepared to hear those names in the same sentence for many years to come.
Both players were drafted in 2003, Wade after a stellar performance in the NCAA and James after a stellar high school career. Many basketball fans were in awe of James’ physical stature and abilities. James’s arrival to the NBA saw anticipation similar to Jordan’s second return. The pressure he faced was a lot for an 18-year-old, yet he proved all the naysayers wrong.
As expected he was drafted first by the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his first career game against the Sacramento Kings he scored 25 points. He was the first Cavalier to be awarded rookie of the year and the youngest in league history.
Wade was drafted fifth that season to the Miami Heat and was an afterthought when you thought of the talents coming out of college that year.
Wade’s rookie season began in turmoil. Hall of fame coach Pat Riley quit before the season started. And when the season did start the Heat didn’t win its first game until the third week of the season.
Wade brought a sense of resilience and energy that propelled the team. By the end of the season they were seeded fourth in the East and defeated in the second round by the Pacers in a game six where Wade scored 22 points.
Wade’s performance in the playoffs prompted many NBA experts to question the rookie of year award that Lebron already won.
In James’ first playoffs he averaged 30.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists. In Wade’s third trip to the playoffs he would continue to dominate after three grueling rounds with the Bulls, Nets and the Pistons. But the Heat finally reached the NBA finals. Wade put the Heat on his shoulders and led them to their first championship.
He received the award for the most valuable player in the finals.
Wade’s fourth season has been his best scoring wise, 28 points, but took a turn for the worse when he dislocated his left shoulder.
Wade had to decide whether to have surgery and end his season or rehabilitate the shoulder and return for the playoffs. He decided to rest and return.
Lebron’s season has been going well. He arguably has the best team around him he’s ever had and holds the fifth spot in the East.
When it’s all said and done it will be hard to say who the better player was. But if it ended right now, Wade would be remembered for his athletic ability and heart and James for his physical superiority and basketball genius.