When Dwyane Wade was struggling during the playoffs last season against Indiana, he sought personal advice from someone he had trusted for a long time.
During an off day, he drove 50 miles south in search of that person. There, at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Wade met with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean Wades college coach from their days at Marquette.
Crean broke down some tape for Wade and gave him his thoughts on how Wade could get his game back on track. Wade also got a good old-fashioned pep talk.
LeBron James never had that sort of relationship with a college coach because, well, he never went to college.
Instead of signing with Ohio State as he said he would have done had current NBA Draft rules been in effect then James went straight from St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, to his hometown Cavaliers as the top pick of the 2003 NBA Draft.
Mike Krzyzewski, who has won four national championships in four decades at Duke, has seemingly stepped in to fill that void.
Krzyzewski and James started to get to know each other once Krzyzewski took over coaching duties for Team USA in 2005. James was part of Coach Ks first Team USA experience, when the team finished third at the World Championships in 2006 setting the stage for a gold medal performance at Beijing in 2008. James and Krzyzewski won gold for the second time this past summer in London.
[Krzyzewski] understood him and Kobe [Bryant] and those other guys who didnt go to college, said Wade, who was with Team USA in 2006 and 08.
And if you can pick one college coach to play for, obviously, Coach K tops that list for many, Wade said. They took their relationship personal; he pushed him. And [James] didnt get that experience. You can tell they both really loved it.
James and Krzyzewski have stayed in contact over the years, with James crediting Coach K for helping him mature into a vocal leader with Team USA.
Keith Dambrot, James high school coach and the current head coach at Akron, told The New York Times this summer that Krzyzewski took one of the greatest talents in the world, maybe ever, and he got him to play defense like a guy at Duke.
That quote made former Duke star Shane Battier laugh out loud when it was relayed to him.
You know what? LeBron could have played at Duke, and I dont say that about a lot of guys, Battier said. There are a lot of All-Stars who couldnt have played at Duke. LeBron is one of the few All-Stars who could have played there and survived.
You have to be mentally tough. You have to know the game you cant be some idiot out there, some dummy running around. You have to play for the team and be selfless. Those are all of LeBron James qualities.
On Tuesday, the Heat plays the Charlotte Bobcats in a preseason game at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
It is the closest the Heat gets to Krzyzewskis campus in Durham just a few miles away. Krzyzewski hasnt confirmed whether he will be attending the game, but James said on Monday that it would be awesome if he did.
We have a great relationship, James said. Weve been together since 05, and our relationship has grown every year. Ive grown from a young man into a man into a leader of that team. Hes helped me develop that. I give a lot of credit to him.