In 2010, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were on top of the NBA world, having won their second consecutive championship — the Black Mamba's fifth in the process. While Bryant was achieving the pinnacle of success, there Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were, unable to break through despite posting varyingly successful campaigns during the 2009-10 season with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively.
Thus, when time came for two of the biggest stars hailing from the 2003 NBA Draft class to hit free agency, winning a championship became one of their primary goals as both Wade and James teamed up on the Heat to avoid getting lapped by the Lakers legend in the legacy department.
“I watched Kobe Bryant grab the ball and celebrate, I was like, ‘[LeBron], so what you gonna do? That was our summer of free agency, they were dominating, like Kobe was winning all these rings,” the Heat legend said on the Skweek Show by Tony Parker. “I was like, ‘Wait, hold on. Now he got 5 and we got 1?' Like no. […] That changed the league.”
"That was our summer of free agency… Kobe was winning all these rings and I was like, 'Wait, hold on. Now he got 5 and we got 1?'"
Dwyane Wade on hitting up LeBron to join him on the Heat after the Lakers won the NBA title in 2010.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 25, 2023
Change the league, the 2010 NBA free agency period certainly did. The Heat, from a middle-of-the-pack playoff team that won 47 games the year prior, immediately became one of the league's most legitimate contending teams after assembling the iconic Heatles Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh.
Of course, it didn't immediately result in a championship for the Heat. Even though they made it all the way to the 2011 NBA Finals and were favored heading into that series against a Dallas Mavericks team that lacked the top-end talent the Heat had, they failed to win a title during that year.
But that only brought the team closer together, and a year later, it was the Heat that stood atop the league's totem pole while Kobe Bryant's Lakers fell off, unable to recover from the sweep they took at the hands of the Mavs in 2011 and unable to pivot from the vetoed Chris Paul trade that would have jolted them right back into contention.
Dwyane Wade would retire with three rings, while LeBron James still has the opportunity to win his fifth championship to match Bryant — this time doing it for the Purple and Gold like the Mamba did.