For most guys coming into the NBA in the ’00s, Kobe Bryant was the bar. Marquette’s Dwyane Wade was no exception. By the time Wade got in, 24-year-old Bryant was already a 3x champion. That in and of itself was a standard, and from day one, Flash was on a mission of chasing it.
Now how do you catch up with the bar if the bar is constantly being set higher? You can’t. So what’s your best bet? You prove your worth to it. That was Wade’s thought process. He wanted Bryant to look at him as equal, so he made it his mission to earn the guy’s respect. And in the ’08 Olympics, Wade got it.
When we got to ’08 in the Olympics is when we got close, and it all started from training. I think once you get around guys, you really see who they are and what they’re built of. And Kobe saw that my grind was similar to his grind and that me and him did a lot of things where it was just me and him, and it wasn’t no one else around. That’s when Kobe started respecting me in the way that I already had respect for him in.Dwyane Wade, OM3 Podcast w/ JJ Reddick
Wade earned Kobe’s respect as a competitor. So what did Flash do? He capitalized on it, especially during the Olympics. Kobe became Wade’s go-to guy for seeking basketball advice, as he fed off Bryant’s knowledge about the game. But don’t get it twisted, it was a two way street for Wade. Kobe made sure to pick up everything he could from Flash, and Dwyane took great pride in that. Like Bryant’s ability to slice through pick-and-rolls – it had Wade’s name written all over it.
Team USA took home the gold medal, with both Wade and Bryant playing a crucial role in their quest for the title. As the tournament ended, the period of Kobe and Dwyane being teammates ended, as they both got back to their respective teams, and were once again on the opposite sides of the equation. They continued going at each other for years until Kobe decided it was time to call it quits.
When Kobe retired from basketball, I didn’t have no one to chase anymore. I kinda lost something in me when he retired, because it was like ‘Well, who am I chasing now? Who is that big matchup for me?‘ I felt Kobe was the only one that was on the level I was on, as one of the top two guards, and even though I felt he was on a higher level than me, but I still was able to chase him, and I didn’t have anybody to chase no more, so it was kinda like ‘Oh, okay – we’re playing Sacramento on a Wednesday, let me just get this done.‘ It was just different.Dwyane Wade, OM3 Podcast w/ JJ Reddick
Not having a bar to chase made the basketball meaningless for Wade. Kobe being out of the NBA left Dwyane with no one to push him to get better. At that point, Flash felt like he had nothing more to prove. Or better yet, he had no one to prove anything to.
It’s called the importance of a measuring stick. The importance of having that someone to chase, because at the end of the day, that’s the best way to improve your own greatness. And for the entire generation of players, that’s what Kobe was. He was the standard, the same way LeBron is, the same way Wade was for some. That’s the biggest part of one’s leagacy; the impact on the next generation.
That’s how the NBA keeps moving forward. It’s the series of iconic individuals drawing inspiration from one another. That’s what Kobe was for Flash – an inexhaustible source of inspiration.