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Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

Close friendship brings out best in Heat's Wade, James

AP

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are known to bicker like brothers. They screamed at one another more than once during Miami Heat playoff games last season. And when they're on opposite teams in practice, they attack the other like they would any opponent.

News photo
Double trouble: Dwyane Wade (left) and LeBron James share a joke during a preseason game against the Magic last week. AP PHOTO

Now they're closer than ever.

And on the cusp of entering Year 2 together with the Heat, Wade and James opened up about their friendship Friday.

"I don't think many players that have the similar games as we have or have done the things that we did in the league can come together this fast and make it work," Wade said. "That communication is there. I don't mind him saying something to me. I don't mind when I have to say something to him. We know how to make it work."

They have so much in common that both find it almost funny sometimes.

Forget the obvious stuff: They're both among the NBA's highest-paid players, then make another truckload of money annually in endorsements. They're both among the league's best scorers, perennial All-Stars, among the most recognizable athletes in the world. What's often forgotten is the ties that really bind, like both having difficult times as kids, relying on one parent at a time and soon understanding that basketball was the vehicle for changing their lives.

James is 203 cm, Wade is 193 cm. James is from Akron, Ohio, Wade from Chicago. James loves tattoos, Wade doesn't have any. James went to the NBA straight out of high school, Wade went to college first.

Nonetheless, Wade and James basically look at each other as mirror images.

"That had a lot to do with me coming down here," James said. "There's nothing that I've seen that he hasn't seen, and vice versa. To be able to be alongside him, be with him every day and basically go through the same things on the court and off the court, it's great. Sometimes you're able to sit back and see things from a different perspective instead of everybody watching you."

They take their cues from each other, whether it is fashion, workout regimens or just where to sit sometimes. For Friday's post-practice interview, Wade slid his body down a wall in a room adjacent to the Heat training facility, slumping to the floor.

"Tired," Wade said.

Two minutes later, James entered the room. Even though he didn't see how Wade took his seat, he did the same thing, putting his back to the wall and sliding to the red carpet.

"Tired," James said.

Maybe it's more than a coincidence.

"What's the saying? Iron sharpens iron. Greatness breeds greatness," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "So you see an example of that next to you. Those guys want to be challenged. Those guys like to be challenged. They do not accept the success that they've had and where they are right now. They're always trying to push to go to the next level. And there's no better way for them to do that than to have an equal peer next to them, pushing them."

The biggest question when Wade, James and Chris Bosh teamed up in July 2010 was will it work?

There have been bumps in the road, and likely there will be a few more — but they are making it work.

James finished second in the league in scoring, Wade finished fourth. Since 1965, the only other time two teammates were among the NBA's top four scorers, and played for a team that went to the NBA Finals was 2001, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal did it for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Of course, Bryant and O'Neal won the title; Dallas beat Miami in last season's Finals. And James and Wade will get yet another reminder of that defeat Sunday when the Heat open their season against the Mavericks — and watch the new champs raise their title banner.

"For us, getting better is not necessarily going to show in our numbers," Wade said. "It's going to show in our leadership. It's going to show in those moments where we get in those games like the Finals where we're up 10 in the fourth quarter, how do we help our team get that win no matter what's going on in the game. It's more so that, not just how we score the ball, rebound, pass. We're going to have those numbers. It's the other things."



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