A few hours before Monday night's game against the Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade shared his thoughts on Kobe Bryant's announcement and explained why the "Black Mamba" was so important to his own NBA career :
I idolized Michael Jordan my whole life, but Michael Jordan was like a ghost to me. I never played against him. So Kobe was the realest thing for me because, as a fan growing up in high school and college, that was my favorite player. And then when I got in the NBA, that was the bar for me. Even though I only played him twice a year, he was my toughest competition. And my bar that I wanted to be on his playing field, I wanted to look him eye-to-eye. So he pushed me.
Drafted in 2003, Wade played against Bryant 19 times in his career and the Miami Heat won 11 of those games against the Los Angeles Lakers. When both superstars faced each other, their match-up often lived up to expectations. We all remember the unbelievable (and lucky) buzzer beater from Bryant over Wade in 2009, or the Christmas Day party in 2004 when "Flash" stole the show in the first ever Kobe vs. Shaq game. And of course, it's impossible to forget the 2012 All-Star Game in which Wade broke Bryant's nose.
If Bryant is rightfully considered by most as the greatest shooting guard ever not named Michael Jordan, Wade did "look him eye-to-eye" when they were on the same court. In terms of individual numbers or team results, Wade was rarely outplayed by Bryant and often gave him a run for his money.
Hopefully they will meet each other one last time on March 30 at Staples Center.