Stephen A. Smith demands Dwyane Wade be respected: ‘LeBron didn’t know how to win until he got to Dwyane Wade’

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With Kyrie Irving finally back in the NBA Finals, the thought of who is LeBron James’ best running mate is a topic of debate, and ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith has weighed in with his thoughts, saying it’s Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat.

After leaving the Cavaliers as a free agent prior to the 2010-11 NBA season, James famously won his first two NBA championships with the Heat with Wade as a teammate. Though they did reach the NBA Finals in all four seasons they were together in Miami, the two managed to win just two titles despite James initially predicting they would capture many more than that.

James then went back to the Cavaliers for the 2014-15 NBA season, which would be Irving’s fourth with Cleveland. Irving recently reflected on his tough times in Cleveland before James’ homecoming, and the two ultimately combined to bring the Cavs their first and only NBA championship to date in the 2015-16 season.

After one more campaign together, Irving departed for the Boston Celtics, and James helped the Cavs to another appearance — also their fourth in a row — in the Finals, ironically with Wade again as a teammate during part of the regular season before he was traded back to the Heat.

Leaving Cleveland once again, James landed with the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 2018-19 season. He teamed with Anthony Davis to help the Lakers win the NBA championship in the 2019-20 season.

Prior to this season, Irving reportedly had a strong interest in reuniting with James on either the Lakers or Dallas Mavericks, but that did not come to pass.

So, James remains in search of his fifth NBA title, while Irving has a chance to capture his second with the Mavericks against the Boston Celtics in the 2024 NBA Finals that begin on Thursday. Jamal Crawford recently said that winning this title would mean more to Irving than the one he garnered with the Cavs.

It is difficult to say what any of these superstar players would have been able to accomplish without playing with each other, but Irving can certainly add to his own personal legacy by winning another championship.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.