Greg Beacham, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:01 AM EST
LOS ANGELES – Dwyane Wade will spend a lot of time in Los Angeles while he sets up to retirement next year. He already has a house here, and his wife's acting career would undoubtedly benefit from more time in Hollywood.
LeBron James is a newly minted Southern Californian himself, and he's already hatching schemes to occupy his former teammate, longtime rival and permanent friend.
"I told him," No one likes to work out by themselves, "James said with a grin. "So he can come to Staples He can come to the practice facility anytime he wants to get workouts in. He can come help me with the young guys as well. ll love that. "
Wade still has 56 regular-season games left in his self-declared final NBA season with the Miami Heat, but he has passed a major milestone in that procession when he lined up against James for the final time Monday night in Los Angeles Lakers' 108 -105 victories.
The result was not the most important part of the night to either man. They were wrapped up in the pure thrill – in the chance to face off for the final time in two incredible basketball careers that have been chronologically parallel, often intersecting and always important.
"I knew that at some point in the game, it was going to hit me that this was the last time we were competing against each other," Wade said. "It hit me right away, once that buzzer sounded and we got the opportunity on the court to just look at each other and be like, 'Man, this has been fun. enjoyed it together. "'
James put up 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Wade scored all 15 of his points in the second half to go with 10 assists and five boards.
But the best moments came late when James and Wade finally guarded each other, playing one last one-on-one game for keeps.
Defense won on both ends, probably because they know each other well enough to take away their strengths. They forced each other to drive to their more uncomfortable sides, and James forced Wade to try a 27-foot turnaround, fadeaway 3-pointer that missed badly with 7.2 seconds left.
Wade was more open when he missed 3 and that would have put the Heat ahead with 22.5 seconds left.
"I needed that one," Wade said with a grimace. "This is my last time playing against this guy, you know, this is the holy grail in the NBA." Unless we figure this thing out and we go to the Finals, this is the holy grail for me. The competition of playing against the game's greatest player. no better than this. "
Barring and changing of Wade's retirement plans or that incredibly unlikely NBA Finals matchup, they will never face each other in a real game – and the Lakers' victory put James ahead of Wade 16-15 in their heads-to-head matchups over their career.
James marveled at the symmetry in this final showdown, but both players said their times together meant a whole lot more than their times in opposing uniforms.
James and Wade won two NBA championships and four straight Eastern Conference titles together in Miami, together with their Olympic gold medals from Beijing.
"The game is going to take care of itself, but just the fact that we were on the floor doing what we love to do, that's what's more important," James said. "Wins and losses are going to happen throughout the season and throughout your career, but those moments right there, you can never get back."
James and Wade swapped the jerseys after the final buzzer, their bittersweet emotions overwhelmed by the excitement of the moment and the possibilities of the future.
"It's the end of a storybook," James said. "One of the best movies you could ever see It's too hard to put it in words Thank God they're staying the night We'll have dinner (later) I know he has more games but that's the last for us. "