Wade, James say time has made them even closer

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are known to bicker like brothers.
They screamed at one another more than once during Miami Heat
playoff games last season. And when they’re on opposite teams in
practice, they attack the other like they would any opponent.

Now they’re closer than ever.

And on the cusp of entering Year 2 together with the Heat, Wade
and James opened up about their friendship Friday in an interview
with The Associated Press.

”I don’t think many players that have the similar games as we
have or have done the things that we did in the league can come
together this fast and make it work,” Wade said. ”That
communication is there. I don’t mind him saying something to me. I
don’t mind when I have to say something to him. We know how to make
it work.”

They have so much in common that both find it almost funny
sometimes.

Forget the obvious stuff: They’re both among the NBA’s
highest-paid players, then make another truckload of money annually
in endorsements. They’re both among the league’s best scorers,
perennial All-Stars, among the most recognizable athletes in the
world. What’s often forgotten is the ties that really bind, like
both having difficult times as kids, relying on one parent at a
time and soon understanding that basketball was the vehicle for
changing their lives.

James is 6-foot-8, Wade is 6-foot-4. James is from Akron, Wade
from Chicago. James loves tattoos, Wade doesn’t have any. James
went to the NBA straight out of high school, Wade went to college
first.

Nonetheless, Wade and James basically look at each other as
mirror images.

”That had a lot to do with me coming down here,” James said.
”There’s nothing that I’ve seen that he hasn’t seen, and vice
versa. To be able to be alongside him, be with him every day and
basically go through the same things on the court and off the
court, it’s great. Sometimes you’re able to sit back and see things
from a different perspective instead of everybody watching
you.”

They take their cues from each other, whether it is fashion,
workout regimens or just where to sit sometimes. For Friday’s
post-practice interview, Wade slid his body down a wall in a room
adjacent to the Heat training facility, slumping to the floor.

”Tired,” Wade said.

Two minutes later, James entered the room. Even though he didn’t
see how Wade took his seat, he did the same thing, putting his back
to the wall and sliding to the red carpet.

”Tired,” James said.

Maybe it’s more than a coincidence.

”What’s the saying? Iron sharpens iron. Greatness breeds
greatness,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”So you see an
example of that next to you. Those guys want to be challenged.
Those guys like to be challenged. They do not accept the success
that they’ve had and where they are right now. They’re always
trying to push to go to the next level. And there’s no better way
for them to do that than to have an equal peer next to them,
pushing them.”

The biggest question when Wade, James and Chris Bosh teamed up
in July 2010 was will it work?

There have been bumps in the road, and likely there will be a
few more – but they are making it work.

James finished second in the league in scoring, Wade finished
fourth. Since 1965, the only other time two teammates were among
the NBA’s top four scorers, and played for a team that went to the
NBA finals was 2001, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal did it
for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Of course, Bryant and O’Neal won the title; Dallas beat Miami in
last season’s finals. And James and Wade will get yet another
reminder of that defeat Sunday when the Heat open their season
against the Mavericks – and watch the new champs raise their title
banner.

”For us, getting better is not necessarily going to show in our
numbers,” Wade said. ”It’s going to show in our leadership. It’s
going to show in those moments where we get in those games like the
finals where we’re up 10 in the fourth quarter, how do we help our
team get that win no matter what’s going on in the game. It’s
moreso that, not just how we score the ball, rebound, pass. We’re
going to have those numbers. It’s the other things.”

Last year in training camp, Wade and James wanted to be on
separate teams in practice, trying to set a tone for workouts. This
year, with an abbreviated training camp and the core of last year’s
Eastern Conference championship team back, the mano-a-mano matchups
haven’t happened much, their preference being to keep Miami’s first
unit together as much as possible to get sharp for the season.

That’s fine with James and Wade.

”I’d rather not go against him,” James said. ”We’re two
competitors. We go against each other at practice at times. But
I’ve found it’s definitely better to have him by my side.”

When the Heat got James, the team got a two-time MVP, and both
players got – of all things – child-care help.

An interesting perk, for certain, but it’s just another tie that
binds. James has two sons, Wade has two sons, and the kids are all
of relatively similar ages. They hang out often, overnighting and
playing together, sometimes going so late that the dads are still a
bit sleepy when they arrive for work the next day. It speaks to the
level of trust James and Wade have with each other as well.

The way they see it, if you can trust a teammate with your kids,
you probably can trust him with the basketball with the game on the
line, too.

”There’s things we knew from afar,” Wade said. ”Our moms
struggled. We both played this game at a high level. We knew that.
But when you’re around each other every day, you get to really
learn the ins and outs. Things that LeBron deals with sometimes,
I’m like, `Oh my God, I got that call yesterday.’ It’s not a lot of
things that you’d see that we have in common. But I understand him.
And he understands me.”

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