After Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998, Kobe Bryant established himself as the face of the NBA. However, during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, there were numerous players who have challenged to take his place.
One of these players was Dwyane Wade, who quickly became a rival when Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. While Wade is considered a top-five shooting guard of all-time, he had high praise for Bryant according to Lakers.com:
Dwyane Wade on #KobeBryant: "Having a relationship with one of my heroes, one of my role models as a basketball player, meant a lot."
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 13, 2016
Throughout the years, Bryant and Wade have been able to develop a relationship through these All-Star Games and playing together on Team USA in 2008. With all the injuries he has had to deal with, it appears Wade respects Bryant’s ability to adjust his game as he has gotten older.
While the All-Star Game is on Sunday, Bryant and Wade will have another opportunity to face each other as the Lakers play the Heat on March 30. With this being Bryant’s final season, one of the priorities will be keeping him relatively healthy for the final 27 games.
Although Bryant had a difficult start to the season, he has had some vintage performances during his farewell tour. In the past five games, Bryant is averaging 25.2 points and 6.0 rebounds, which includes a season-high 38 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves.