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LeBron James explains how he and Dwyane Wade pushed each other harder as friends than they ever could have as rivals

Lakers star LeBron James is confident that he was going to wind up great in the NBA, but couldn’t have reached these particular heights without Dwyane Wade.

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The respect shared between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade was extremely apparent Monday night as the Los Angeles Lakers took care of business against the Miami Heat. They’ve built that bond over 16 years shared in the NBA together, and James made it clear he was extremely grateful for the relationship he and Wade built after taking the court with his close friend for the last time.

“Some people say you shouldn’t be friends with your competitors because you still can’t compete, but I think people realize that even with our friendship, we competed against each other and pushed each other,” James said. “Especially for the first seven years and then we got together. For four years we pushed each other even more then and did something special. And then we pushed each other even more when we became competitors once again.

“We did it our way, we didn’t care about the narrative or what people created before us, or what people said during, or what people said now,” James continued. “It was an incredible ride for 16 years. It’s so weird, I didn’t even know that we were tied 15-15 coming into today’s game, until this morning. It’s a storybook. We’ve got great writers here in Hollywood and I don’t even know if they’ll be able to write this one.”

James (as with most super-rich/famous people) has always been very interested in writing his own story. That he, Wade and Chris Bosh were able to team up and do things their way had to have always appealed to James, and he seems (very rightfully) proud of the success they shared over the course of those years together.

LeBron is also very conscious of who he is and hopes to continue to become off the court. On this account, he once again credits Wade.

“I think me personally, I would have been very successful in this league without D-Wade. But to accomplish what I really wanted to accomplish in this league, and that’s winning at the highest level, I needed him,” James said. “I appreciate more than I can express in words what he did for me when I went down to Miami.

“You have to think about how I spent the first 25 years of my life in Akron, Ohio. I spent 18 years going through high school and then my first seven years of my professional career I was still living in Akron, Ohio, so that’s all I knew. For me to move down to a place that was foreign to me and my family, and for him to open up that franchise and that city for me and my family and make it so seamless,” James continued. “What we accomplished, I give so much (credit) to him, and it just shows what kind of guy he is.”

Say what you will about athletes being buddy-buddy, but this level of respect only deepens a rivalry. Professional athletes are some of the most competitive people in the world, and the idea that they might hold back because they consider each other friends is, quite frankly, a ridiculous premise. I’m glad James made sure to address that concern.

Regarding James’ personal growth and the role Wade played in it, remember, Wade is a couple years older than James. While LeBron has always been immensely mature beyond his years, so has Wade, and considering the age difference, it makes sense that LeBron would credit him for some of his own development.

The NBA is going to miss Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’ friendship — let alone Wade, the basketball player. He was absolutely deserving of the love he received from Lakers fans and LeBron on Monday night, and hopefully he continues to get it for the rest of this season.