In the world of sports, 2011 was a lifetime ago. It was also a key turning point in LeBron James’ career. In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade got in the face of LeBron, who was 26 at the time and demanded that James ascend and become even better.
“I knew our relationship. I knew I could talk to Bron, because he could talk to me the same way. We ain’t sensitive. […] In that moment in Dallas it was coming down to me and him, and I didn’t feel like he was playing to the level he needed to for us to win. That moment may not have been for that finals, but the next finals, and the next finals, and the next finals.”
The Heat would go on to lose the series to the Mavericks 4-2, and clips of Wade yelling at LeBron went viral. It sparked offseason conversation about whether the two stars could coexist — which lasted all of a few months.
LeBron was a new player when the next season rolled around, lifting his game in every area en route to Miami’s back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. It’s impossible to imagine what would happen to the NBA if this moment didn’t transpire. Make no mistake: LeBron was still great prior to being yelled at by Wade, but it definitely game him an edge we hadn’t seen before. It was the first time anyone really challenged LeBron, and pushing him like that transformed him from being an exceptionally good player, to a legendary one.
We know what happened next. LeBron has gone on to win four NBA Championships with three different teams, four NBA Finals MVP awards, and become the only player in history to belong in the conversation with Michael Jordan for the GOAT status. It’s a stretch to say this was all because of being chewed out by Wade — but there’s little doubt his pressure on a young LeBron made a colossal impact.