CORAL GABLES, Fla. — How big have the second-ranked Hurricanes become in Miami?
The Heat are getting ideas from them.
Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade attended the Feb. 9 game between the Miami and North Carolina. When Hurricanes guard Shane Larkin threw a pass off the backboard on a fastbreak to center Kenny Kadji for a dunk, James and Wade went wild. They went crazy again after watching the replay on the videoboard.
The next week, James approached Wade and suggested the two make that part of their repertoire.
So Wade threw the ball off the backboard in last Sunday’s All-Star Game for a James dunk. He did it again Wednesday at Atlanta.
“We had a conversation (in which James said), ‘You never throw it off the glass to me,’’’ Wade said. “It was UM (that provided the idea). We give them the credit.’’
The college guys gladly will take it.
“A little inspiration by the Hurricanes, I heard,’’ coach Jim Larranaga said Thursday. “Not that those guys need any inspiration on how to dunk the ball.’’
The Hurricanes were flying home last Sunday night following a win at Clemson, so they missed the All-Star Game. But when they saw highlights of Wade’s pass from that game and then saw him do it again Wednesday, they had to wonder.
“It was a little weird at first seeing them do that because they were just at our game and now they’re doing that,’’ Hurricanes big man Julian Gamble said.
Gamble saw later that Wade had credited the Hurricanes, which thrilled Gamble.
“They’re saying they got this from two college kids,’’ Gamble said of Wade and James. “That’s cool to see two of the greatest players in the NBA today do something like that. They’re our idols and somebody we look up to.’’
Miami center Reggie Johnson said James and Wade copying the Hurricanes makes it special.
“It’s two of the best players in the league doing it,’’ Johnson said. “It ain’t like it’s JaVale McGee and (Ty) Lawson (of Denver). It’s the faces of the NBA.
“It was really cool. You got NBA players, All-Stars, saying they got it from college kids. So I’m pretty sure Kenny and Shane (who weren’t available Thursday for comment) are soaking that in and enjoying it. And I’m pretty sure Twitter is blowing up over it.’’
Actually, Johnson provided something else Thursday for Twitter to blow up about. When the topic of James came up, he called him “the second-best player in the league right now.”
Asked to clarify, Johnson said, “Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league.”
So would Johnson say that to James’ face?
“I’d definitely tell LeBron,” Johnson said. “I actually told LeBron that when he first signed (with the Heat in 2010). We kind of got into it, jokingly or whatever … So I have (said that) to his face before.’’
Johnson said he was shooting with James in Miami and the Heat star “hit a jump shot and said ‘two-time MVP.’ ” James, who since has added a third trophy, then heard this back from Johnson.
“I said, ‘You’re not even the best right now. It’s Kobe,’’’ Johnson said. “He said, ‘I’ll take that. Anytime. We’ll see,’ or something like that.’’
Nevertheless, Johnson does respect James.
“It’s personal, not business,” Johnson said. “Personally, I think Kobe is better. In Miami and South Florida, LeBron is the man. Don’t get me wrong, I respect LeBron. I think LeBron is a heck of a player, don’t get me wrong. But I’m a Kobe fan from Day 1.’’
Yeah, but Bryant hasn’t been emulating any Hurricanes moves lately.