It took more than 47 minutes of basketball on Monday night to get the mano-a-mano duel that everyone at Staples Center so desperately wanted – and when the moment came, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James didn't disappoint.
It began with the Los Angeles Lakers up 106-105 on the Miami Heat in the game's final minute. Wade tracked James down the court as the latter took control of L.A.'s offense, and then crouched into a defensive stance, aggressively challenging his old friend to make a play just inside the half-court line. LeBron tried, but ultimately bricked a tough fadeaway.
Thirty seconds later, after a Heat miss, James found himself at the free-throw line. Wade lobbed some playful trash talk his way, and James, who walked to the line 2-for-6 on the night, accepted the challenge by knocking down both freebies to put the Lakers up three.
Finally, the game concluded with James locking up Wade at the other end, forcing a wild turnaround 3-point attempt from the top of the arc that found nothing but backboard. James grabbed the game-sealing defensive rebound and launched it out of view as Wade wrapped him up in a spirited bear hug.
It may not have been the perfect ending to the 16-year link between two of this generation's most iconic players – Wade plans to retire after this season – but it was certainly a fitting one. For all they went through, both together and apart, no player brought out the best in LeBron quite like Wade did.