CHICAGO — Dwyane Wade isn’t ready to put Miami Heat teammate LeBron James in Michael Jordan’s category.
Not yet anyway.
“I think everyone knows that (James) is a phenomenal, phenomenal player. He’s one that we haven’t seen, with the makeup of a 6-8 guy who runs as fast as any point guard, jumps as high as any center, and has the ability that he has to do so many things. But Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time, that’s who everyone shoots for. So it’s going to be hard to surpass that.”
Wade, a Chicago native who told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week that James was “on that level” as it pertained to Jordan, played an instrumental role in James signing with the Heat two summers ago.
James capped a remarkable year earlier this month with an Olympic gold medal for Team USA. Before that, he won his third league MVP, his first NBA championship and an NBA Finals MVP.
“I’m not (surprised),” Wade said of James. “Because there’s a certain period in your life and a time (in) an age group where you’re going to continue to get better. You see players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, they’re good now but they’re going to be better. And it’s not saying how many more points you can score, it’s just being better as an overall player. And LeBron is at that point; he’s 27 years old.
“He’s now playing with that confidence, that swagger that you need, and he’s right in the smack of his prime. We’ve all seen it from all the best players in this game, all the future Hall of Famers, that age — 27, 28, 29 — that’s like the best years, and then after that if you stay healthy, then you have even more great years like a Michael Jordan, like a Kobe (Bryant) has had, when they reach their 30s.”
Jordan won his first of six NBA titles at age 27 in his seventh season. James was also 27 when he won his first title, and if he ever wrestles the unofficial title of the NBA’s greatest, he likely will need to match Jordan’s title haul.
As the Jordan-James debate rages on, Wade believes the Heat can be a dynasty as long as they stay healthy.
“If you’re a team that’s lucky enough not to have major injuries along your run, then it can possibly be,” Wade said. “But you never know that until it’s over. As a Chicago Bulls fan, when they won their first championship, I didn’t say, ‘We’re going to win five more.’ You just hope that your team continues to compete and they get in that situation that they’re good enough to pull it out and are able to win.
“So right now, we won one and that’s a lot more than a lot of teams have done in the past, but it’s a lot less than (other teams) as well. We just want to continue to get better and hopefully we’re there again in the Finals to try and win another one.”