Greg Cote

Dwyane Wade friendship isn’t one of LeBron James’ problems

Critics in Cleveland have said LeBron James’ friendship with the Heat’s Dwyane Wade is detrimental to the Cavs.
Critics in Cleveland have said LeBron James’ friendship with the Heat’s Dwyane Wade is detrimental to the Cavs. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

LeBron James’ problem isn’t his continuing friendship with Dwyane Wade. LeBron’s problem is that he is no longer the player he was and that Stephen Curry and the Warriors are taking the championships he thought were meant for him.

There arises a new theory to help explain the unfortunate trajectory of LeBron James’ career. Blame Dwyane Wade! Yes, that’s it. Blame the distraction and mixed messages resulting from their continuing friendship.

It is possible that LeBron is simply past his prime and eclipsed by the Golden State meteor — that those are the main reasons he’s unlikely to win another NBA title.

But if you need more, there’s the fraternizing with D-Wade, according to writer Chris Haynes in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who said James and Wade chatting and acting brotherly during Saturday’s Miami Heat victory here caused “a negative psychological effect” on LeBron’s Cavaliers teammates.

Cleveland has lost 11 consecutive games in Miami, including James’ 0-3 record since his return to theCavs, and so James was called upon “to consider suspending that relationship” with Wade until Cleveland finds a way to win here.

It’s weird enough when presidential candidates say they are “suspending” their campaign. I’ve never before heard of “suspending” a friendship as a matter of calculation or prudence.

We bend over backward to try to explain the declining State of LeBron, at age 31, but it really isn’t that complicated.

Someday, James will take stock of where it all went wrong. Maybe it’s 2023 and he’s retired and bored enough to take a first meeting with the person who will be ghostwriting his memoirs. Only then will he begin to confront the overarching reality that — for all of his undeniable greatness and accomplishments — failure in many ways ultimately defined his NBA career.

Ghostwriter (let’s just randomly call him Brian): “How honest you want to be?”

LeBron: “Oh, what the hell. Truth gonna sell better, anyway.”

The truth will not include a mea culpa on leaving Cleveland in the first place, or even the way he did it. No regrets for the “taking my talents to South Beach” TV show that rubbed so many fans wrong and set his jerseys ablaze in Cleveland.

“Why should I regret that!” I hear the LeBron on truth serum saying rather defiantly. “I was right. It worked. It succeeded.”

The problem was, little after that did.

These truths — whether ever admitted or not — are by now self-evident:

▪ Confession 1: James never should have left Miami the way he did or especially when he did, still in his prime, after four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two championships. Who does that!? He messed with success. Derailed the gravy train.

“We had a shot at a dynasty for real,” the honest LeBron would say. “I regret leaving Miami. Man it feels good to finally get that off my shoulders.”

▪ Confession 2: He needed Wade and Chris Bosh. Needed the help. Did not win a championship without them, before or afterward. Miami’s Big 3 was special once they figured things out. LeBron thought he could just plug in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love as his sidekicks and replicate that, and then saw what happened.

“I think I underestimated how special it was with D-Wade,” the truthful LeBron would say. “Or maybe I just overestimated myself.”

▪ Confession 3: He failed Cleveland. Let down his people. Went home for the expressed purpose of gifting his city with a championship parade and could not deliver. It wasn’t that he personally didn’t do enough; it was that he got blindsided by the game-altering phenomena that was Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

“He took my crown as the best player in the league,” LeBron on truth serum would admit. “He took the rings that I thought would belong to me and to Cleveland.”

LeBron surely might admit a few regrets, if only to himself, when his playing days are done.

His relationship with Wade shouldn’t be one of those regrets. Only that it became a long-distance friendship before it should have, perhaps.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at miamiherald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

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