As Dwyane Wade walks away from Miami, nothing seems sacred anymore
It's a tough pill to swallow for Heat fans
When LeBron James left Cleveland, they burned his jersey. When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, they did the same.
In Miami? Given the times in which we live, I don't ever want to be guilty of underestimating human depravity. But I have to believe, given the connection between athlete and region that existed these many years between Wade and Miami, people will be too stunned for all that.
Stunned and grateful.
Grateful that they had Dwyane Wade for as many years as they did (13), to the tune of multiple championships (three) and countless amazing basketball nights providing an oasis from the steamy South Florida air and vapid nightclub excursions.
These relationships between cities and fans have become all too rare in the NBA. Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles, a relationship ended by Father Time rather than salary-cap economics or superstar power plays. Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas, still going strong. Tim Duncan and San Antonio, hanging on by a thread as the Big Fundamental contemplates retirement.
In the era of player movement, Dwyane Wade wearing a Miami Heat jersey bearing his iconic No. 3 was one of the last bastions of stability and tradition in a sport now driven by AAU wanderlust.
And now, it's over.
I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.
Wade agreed Wednesday to a two-year deal for nearly $48 million to leave Miami and join the Chicago Bulls, multiple league sources confirmed to CBS Sports. The Vertical reported that the deal includes a player option for the second year.
It's stunning. It's melancholy. It reflects the business realities of the sport that not even one of the deepest, truest relationships left on the basketball landscape could outlast.
Like James before him, Wade is going home.
To his native Chicago.
Which just doesn't make any sense, and yet at the same time makes all the sense in the world.
From a personal perspective, Wade did not take leaving Miami lightly. It was his city, his region, his basketball team -- even when James and Chris Bosh joined him in 2010 and advanced to four consecutive NBA Finals and won two championships together. James was the catalyst for the formation of a history-making Super Team, yet Wade was the one introduced to fans last before every game.
There was no mistaking whose building it was, whose sweat and sacrifice had made it all possible. The only option out there that could replace that was returning, triumphantly and reluctantly, to his hometown.
Wade took less money to make the Big Three happen, and he did it again last summer in some contentious contract negotiations with the Heat that resulted in a compromise: a one-year, $20 million deal.
After 13 years and three championships and 12 All-Star selections, this future Hall of Famer was in no mood to do it again.
The Heat, still trying to reinvent themselves after James' departure in 2014, came in light on their initial contract offers to Wade. It's Negotiation 101; and it was also unacceptable from Wade's viewpoint. This time, though, the Heat were burned by the same cap-spike anomaly that caused the Thunder to lose Durant to the Golden State Warriors.
In any other free-agent summer, the teams able to create even a fraction of the cap space required to lure a player of Wade's caliber and resume would be a collection of has-beens and nobodies. This summer, with the league's TV deal sending the cap ballooning from $70 million to $94 million, 21 teams entered free agency with room for a max contract.
That didn't even include the Bulls, until they cut bait with Derrick Rose in a trade with the Knicks and watched Joakim Noah leave for the same Big Apple team. To create a safe haven for Wade, all the Bulls had to do was dump the contracts of Mike Dunleavy (to the Cavs, into a trade exception) and Jose Calderon (to the Lakers, into cap space).
From the Bulls' perspective, they get a Hall of Famer and Chicago native simply by divesting themselves of two backups. At 34, Wade may not be the player he has always been, but the Bulls get him on a short deal -- as they did with their new point guard, Rajon Rondo (two years, $28 million).
What does it all mean? It means that the NBA has been turned upside-down more than ever before. This isn't Patrick Ewing getting traded from the Knicks to Seattle in a bitter, injury-riddled end to a glorious run in New York. This isn't even James leaving the Cavs after seven seasons or Durant leaving the Thunder after eight seasons in Oklahoma City.
This is so much bigger than that. This is the man who built and defined a franchise leaving after 13 years, a basketball eternity.
And at once, we should be both unsurprised and unnerved.
And grateful, at the same time.
So if you're wondering if nothing is sacred anymore in the NBA, you've got that right. Let's just hope all the No. 3 Heat jerseys stay away from flammable materials. You should keep them, and hold them and wear them proudly. Just as Dwyane Wade did.
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