Pat Riley Says Dwyane Wade Was Better Than Kobe Bryant in His Prime

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Debates over which NBA players are or were better than others is a discussion that will never end.

In the opinion of Miami Heat team president Pat Riley, retiring Heat guard Dwyane Wade was better in his prime than Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report looked at how the rivalry between Wade and another retiring superstar, Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, was forged in the success of each player. The genesis of that rivalry came after Wade led a comeback in the 2006 finals over Nowitzki’s Mavericks and won MVP honors for that six-game series.

Beck writes that such success allowed Wade to surpass Bryant in Riley’s eyes:

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“For about a three-year span Wade was, in Riley’s view, ‘the best player in the world.’

“‘Dwyane was better than Kobe at that time,’ Riley says. ‘He had a better year by having the impact on winning—in the Finals, in the biggest moments, on the biggest stage. And you get that moniker.'”

Bryant had helped the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2001 to 2003, but then watched his team come up short in both 2004 and 2008. While he did help the Lakers bounce back to win league championships in both 2009 and 2010, his prior lack of success left a void that Wade was able to fill.

Wade led the NBA in scoring during the 2008-09 campaign, averaging 30.2 points per game. Unfortunately for the Heat, the team’s lack of success that year saw them fall to the Atlanta Hawks in a seven-game first-round series.

However, once the Heat acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010, those acquisitions led to four consecutive appearances in the finals and titles in both 2012 and 2013. Wade was a key part of those championships, though his title as top player in the world had been taken by that point by James.

Still, with Wade’s career in the homestretch, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he’s leaving as one of the greatest players ever to take the court. That includes the belief by others that he was the best overall at one point during his stellar career.
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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.