Dwyane Wade is a Chicago Bull, leaving the Miami Heat after 13 -years. But like LeBron James decision to head home in 2014, it did not have to end this way
Successful eras come and go in athletics, and with the promise of free agency riches, soaring salary caps and the conflict of egos when it comes to contracts, dynasties are harder than ever to maintain.
With the shock deviation of franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade, who has agreed a two-year deal with his hometown Chicago Bulls, Miamis fabled Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has been reduced to one, with serious doubts over whether the latter will ever play professionally again.
Four consecutive finals trips and two titles were not enough to keep LeBron James, but they perhaps should have been. The chance to see out his glorious career and reassuring a legacy as a one-club man wasnt enough for Dwyane Wade either, but theres without doubt it should have been.
So what went wrong?
Unfortunately, Miami will find it hard to blame anyone but itself for the dismantling of this championship empire well before its time.
Wades decision to turn his back on the team that drafted him after a glittering 13 year career yielding all three of the Heats titles is no snap decision; it is the culmination of multiple years of free bureau friction and unrequited sacrifice.
It was Wade, who agreed to lighten his billfold to bring LeBron James to Miami in the first place, who did more than anyone to broker the deal with his friend. He was the lowest paid member of that Big Three.
When James high-tailed back to Cleveland, Wade again devoted ground to accommodate the retention of Chris Bosh and the recruitment necessary to keep Miami competitive.
This summer, as tempestuous, immature and still largely unproven centre Hassan Whiteside walked away with a four-year, $98 m max contract, Wade was asked to do it again, all while Miami fixed to cast him aside in its damaging, Hail Mary pursuit of Kevin Durant.
However, in a free agency period gratuitously inflated following a salary cap rise, the man whod never topped the Heats salary chart wanted his market value. He wanted Miami to finally make good on the years assurances hed be looked after.
What he got was an insulting offer of $10 m for the 2016 -1 7 season( via the Vertical ), a 50% pay cut, during a week when players in his position scored unfathomably huge bargains. Portland paid Evan Turner $ 70 m over four years and Evan Fournier received $85 m over five years from Orlando. Meanwhile, rival Dirk Nowitzki, three years older than Wade, nabbed two years and $40 m to finish out his career where he belonged, in Dallas.
After it was dismissed by Durant, Miami upped its offer leaving little discrepancies between it and the $48 m, two-year salary hell receive in Chicago( when Florida tax benefits are factored) but by this phase it was too late. The damage had been done. Wade, apparently grossly offended, was going back to his home nation just like LeBron.
A 13 -year relationship, which saw Wade become the teams record holder for games played, phases, field goals, free-throws, assists and steals, was over in unnecessarily acrimonious fashion.
Speaking to the Miami Heralds Dan LeBatard, all Pat Riley could muster was a text message read: SADDDDDDD !!!! SO saddddddd !
Wade himself, acknowledged on Thursday he was still numb at leaving a franchise and city where hes bona fide royalty.
Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do.
Riley, the Heats so-called Godfather, of course, is more preoccupied with snaring whales than Captain Ahab. However, for the second time in three years, Riley has overcast his line. As such, the two best players in franchise history have swum away to much cooler waters.
It was Riley who practically dared LeBron to leave in the aftermath of the 2014 finals dismantling at the hands of San Antonio.
This stuff is hard. And you got to stay together, if youve got the guts, he said in a memorable news conference that June. And you dont find the first door and run out of it.
Although there were other factors in play, this is known to have irked James, who is now a championship richer, his achievements in Miami now over shadowed by ultimately snapping the Cleveland hoodoo, while coming from 3-1 down against that Warriors team in arguably the greatest finals performance in NBA history.
Back than Riley was blindsided by LeBrons decision, just as he is reportedly surprised by Wades.
However, according to the Miami Herald, 13 years of service did not merit a call during the recruitment process. Instead, Riley left it to owned Mickey Arison, who was on one of his cruise ships shortly after the meeting with Wade.
Many Heat fans have argued Wade should have received the Kobe deal; the last big pay-out, partially as a reward for what is unquestionably the finest career in south Florida athletics history, partly to make good on his years of sacrifice and also because he was just, you know, worth it.
While Kobe picked up $48 m in two years of hobbling around in a legacy decreasing farewell tour, Wade still had the advantage of being Miamis best player, performing at a genuine All-Star level.
Seemingly beyond the injury concerns of recent years after revamping his diet and workout regimen, he missed just eight games of the 2015 -1 6 season, averaging 19 points while carrying an injury-hit Heat to within one game of the Eastern Conference finals and a mouth-watering shot at LeBron a nation was hoping for.
Wades move may end up benefitting Miami on special courts as it gears up for another run at a stacked free agent class in 2017 containing Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Durant and perhaps Blake Griffin. Riley gets another shot at those whales he covets so dearly.
However, like Kobe Bryant, Wade was worth far more to the Miami Heat franchise than wins and losses on the basketball tribunal. For an entire generation of fans, who grew up watching him and that fabled Euro-step and step-back angled jump shot, Wade was the Miami Heat.
Without# 3 in Miami-Wade County, the Heat and a crestfallen fanbase has lost its identity, leaving a void genuinely impossible to fill.
As a squad that has often labelled itself as a family, that placed Wade front and centre of a defiant #HeatLifer marketing campaign after LeBron left, its a jolt to the teams reputation and its chances of recruiting future big name free agents.
But what of Chris Bosh, the last surviving member of the Big Three era? Well that doesnt look good either. Issues relating thereto blood clots have ended the forwards last two seasons at the All Star Break.
His relationship with his squad is also strained, to put it kindly. Bosh and the Heat clashed last season over his desire to return for the play-offs. Miami stood firm in denying it.
Amid distrusts he may be forced into retirement, Bosh will be paid $23.5 m by Miami next season. Medical retirement is a scenario the Heat front office may not be adverse to, given the three years remaining on his bargain and the requisite salary cap reaches moving forward.
The Heats looming demise in the wake of the Big Three era is perhaps a cautionary tale for the prospective dynasty that threatens to build Miamis four-year finals streak looks just like a mere blip.
For the Golden State Warriors, freshly acquired mega-star Kevin Durant will be a free agent again next summer, alongside two-time league MVP Steph Curry and franchise mainstay Andre Iguodala. Can both be retained with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also on big money?
Perhaps the Warriors softer approach will succeed where Pat Rileys challenges and bravado failed? Or maybe todays sacrifices will once again manifest themselves as tomorrows brooding resentment? The remainder of the NBA will likely be hoping for the latter. In fact, it looks like their only hope.
For the Miami Heat, an uncertain future awaits without not one , not two
Well, you know the remainder.
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