Didn’t we see this already?
The most dominant center in the league switches conferences to a team with a rising superstar. After coming up short in their first postseason together, drastic changes are made to the team. A legendary coach returns to the bench and guides them to the NBA Finals.
This is the story of Dwyane Wade’s career, right?
Or is it Kobe Bryant’s?
Their careers have proven to be eerily similar.
After watching the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers and the 2006 Miami Heat, it’s apparent they are essentially one and the same. Bryant and Wade are the same type of player with the same abilities. The difference between the two is that Wade has emerged as the premier player of his team and has the stats to prove it.
The Lakers dominated during the 2000 regular season. With a 67-15 campaign, Los Angeles finished with the best record in the league. Bryant put up fantastic numbers in his third year with O’Neal with 22.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 6.3 rebounds per game.
As the playoffs continued, Bryant finally became recognized as one of the greatest during Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000. Bryant’s stat line for the game read 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks. Suddenly there was a guy not named O’Neal that was a star in Los Angeles.
Miami had a terrific 2006 season and finished with a 52-30 record and was the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Wade was a legitimate candidate for Most Valuable Player and emerged as a superstar by averaging 27.2 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Wade has been considered a star even before the arrival of O’Neal. His performance in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, against the Pistons, only confirmed that. Wade shot an incredible 62 percent against a team that is widely considered the best defensive squad in the league.
There is a misconception that Bryant was second banana to O’Neal while Wade controlled Miami’s offense. Wade has only taken seven more shots in those 17 playoff games.
Bryant had a great postseason in 2000 and showed that he was the most talented player in the entire league. His stats for the three series prior to the championship were 24.2 points on 17.3 field goal attempts per game and finished with a .471 field goal percentage.
Wade proved to be a more effective scorer.
Over the same timeframe, Wade has averaged 26.2 points on 17.7 shots per game while shooting .510 from the field.
Wade has also been able to get his teammates more involved than Bryant did. Wade has dished out 6.7 assists per game as opposed to five per game from Bryant.
Miami would love to repeat the results of the Lakers’ championship run, but Wade can’t imitate Bryant’s production during the NBA Finals.
In 2000, the Lakers squared off with the Indiana Pacers for the championship. Bryant struggled during the series, and missed most of Game 2 and all of Game 3 due to a sprained ankle. The Lakers eventually won in six games and O’Neal was named MVP. For the series Bryant averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
There is no question Bryant was an essential component of the Lakers dynasty or that he is one of the best players in league history. His third year in the league resulted in his first championship. Wade is hoping to do the same thing during his third season.
He would be more than willing to slip on the championship ring.