Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have developed one of the most genuine friendships in sports after being drafted a few picks apart in the 2003 NBA Draft, going head to head as Eastern Conference rivals and winning two championships as teammates with the Miami Heat.
It's one of the reasons Wade signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 shortly after he was bought out by the Chicago Bulls. He wanted an opportunity to play side by side with arguably his closest ally and a shot at his fourth Larry O'Brien Trophy - especially since he knew it was likely James' last hurrah in Ohio.
"LeBron, first of all, he's a guy who always plays his cards close to the vest, but I knew his ultimate goal was to be in Los Angeles," Wade told The Athletic's Joe Vardon. "He recruited me and he talked to me about signing there (Cleveland), and I said, 'Listen, I know you might not be there long, you're gonna be a free agent and there are some things that might happen, and we'll have a conversation.' I just thought I'd make it through the season first."
Wade was ultimately dealt to the Heat for a heavily protected 2024 second-round pick shortly before the trade deadline. The Cavaliers were going through a significant slump and had just completed a fire sale of nearly half their existing roster hoping it would spark their chances at competing for a title.
Despite his interest in heading back to South Beach, Wade admitted his goal at the time was to remain in Cleveland and compete for a championship.
"That's why I signed there in the first place," he said. "If I had known that was gonna happen, I wouldn't have signed there. It's gonna be an item on my resume that's hard to understand, but it happened. I know I filled my role while I was there, as a veteran and a leader. At least I can say I made some really cool relationships with the people who were there."
Wade provided the Heat with a boost off the bench, becoming their de facto closer and sixth man for 21 games and a short-lived playoff run.
The Cavaliers made their fourth straight NBA Finals but fell flat against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, narrowly losing a couple key games as James received little help when he needed it most. Wade feels as though he could have made a positive contribution.
"Of course that was my reaction," Wade added. "I'm watching it like, 'That's why I went there, to play in this series.'"