LeBron James recently told reporters he was “like fine wine, getting better with age.”
His former coach and one of his best friends agree.
As he prepared to face James and the Cavaliers Tuesday night, Dwyane Wade said this is the best he has ever seen his former Heat and Cavaliers teammate play.
James, 33, hasn’t won the league’s MVP award since 2013, and James Harden is considered the favorite with the Houston Rockets owning the best record in the NBA.
But James, who is averaging 27.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, is also averaging a career-high 9.1 assists.
“This is as good as I’ve seen him,” Wade said. “I thought when he was here there was a point in time when he was shooting 60 percent from the field and I was like, ‘This is the best he’s going to be. This is as good as it gets.’ He’s continued to prove everybody wrong that he finds new levels. In his 15th season, to be 33 years of age and to be playing the way he’s playing, as consistent as he’s playing, that is as impressive as anything that anybody has ever done.”
Wade and James won two NBA championships together and led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals from 2010 to 2014.
The two spent half a season together as teammates in Cleveland until the Cavaliers traded Wade back to Miami on Feb. 8.
Tuesday is the first time Wade and James will be on an NBA court Tuesday night for the first time since Feb. 25, 2017, while playing for the Chicago Bulls against the Cavaliers.
Although Tuesday’s game was the final regular-season meeting between the Heat and the Cavaliers, the possibility remains the teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.
James has not missed a game this season, and if he plays all 82, he would do so for the first time in his career.
“I think the last 15 games is every bit of [NBA] Finals games that you’ll face and he’s playing at that kind of level right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
James said before Tuesday’s shootaround that he still cherishes the memories of his time with the Heat.
“Of course, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have any emotions or any memories pop up when you walk back into an arena where you had so many games and so many battles and so many great memories,” James said.
James said he felt like his time with Wade as a teammate in Cleveland feels like it was years ago and not months ago.
“It actually seems like it was a long time ago, to be honest,” James said. “We’ve had like five seasons in one. For you guys who are here locally, you guys don’t know. But we’ve had like five seasons in one. Me and D-Wade being teammates and being in Cleveland seems like it was years ago. It’s crazy how things change so fast. But I definitely didn’t take it for granted.”
Wade paused when asked about how he felt facing the Cavaliers and said he would probably have a better answer after the game.
Wade played 46 games for the Cavaliers and averaged 11.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 23.2 minutes mostly coming off the bench. Since 14 games since joining the Heat, Wade is averaging 13.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 22.8 minutes.
When asked by Cavaliers reporters about his time in Cleveland and how it ended, Wade said he felt he did everything he needed to do.
Wade said he cherished moments such as James’ recording his 30,000th career point and winning 18 of 19 games during one stretch early in the season.
“Right or wrong, whoever wants to write about it, say about it, I felt when I was there I did everything I needed to do from the standpoint of being a professional, trying to play my best role on the team with the roster we had, speaking up when it was uncomfortable and not speaking up at times as well and keeping my mouth shut. Just trying to figure out my role the couple months I was there. If I had to do it all over again in that same position, I would do it the same way while I was there. Obviously when you get away and you hear different things, you think, ‘Maybe I could have done this different.’ I felt I did as good a job as I could coming in with a new team and trying to learn things there.”