This column originally appeared on Slice Miami
For Heat fans, this will sting.
It will rock the senses.
It will engender mixed emotions.
There are no winners and no losers.
Yet this stunning divorce is also unequivocally in the best interest of both the three-time NBA champion and his former franchise — holy crap, the Miami Heat is no longer Dwyane Wade. Every time I try to think about this rationally, how this definitely is the best basketball decision (and business decision), emotions flood and epic memories start flowing.
Like when Wade euthanized Anderson Varejao in 2009.
Or when Wade took out the remote from Click and muted the shit out of Purple Shirt Guy in this year’s playoffs.
Or when Wade swallowed the Mavericks’ 2-0 series lead in the 2006 Finals and proceeded to projectile vomit it all over Mark Cuban before Game 3. His performance was so dominant, so ruthless, Cuban had no other way to digest his team’s collapse than, “the refs cheated.”
There are so many Wade moments, our site doesn’t have the required storage and I don’t have the time to possibly curate them all.
From a basketball standpoint, it still might be tough to process for many Miami fans. They see averages of 21, 6, and 4 in the playoffs, with a slew of heroic crunch-time moments to boot and think age-defying legend.
The analytical world sees a regressing defensive liability, so much so the Heat’s point differential swelled when Wade was off the court — both in the season and the playoffs. Miami’s defense allowed eight points per 100 possessions more with Wade on the court, quantifying just how much Wade has declined on that end.
Wade’s offensive game is still impactful, but as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton writes, he’s not nearly as efficient as he used to be and yet he dominates the ball like he’s the same player from 2006.
As he has aged, he has become a volume scorer in the pejorative sense — a player who still uses a high percentage of his team’s plays (31.6 percent last year, which ranked fifth in the league) but does so inefficiently. Wade’s .517 true shooting percentage ranked 11th among the 12 players with usage rates of 30 percent or greater, ahead of only Kobe Bryant(.469).
Miami has a younger, more effective attacker in Goran Dragic, who will likely thrive playing next to someone with more shooting ability and less of a tendency to pound the ball into the hardwood while disrupting the offensive flow. Like Josh Richardson or Tyler Johnson.
Considering Pat Riley wants to contend above all else — this is what Heat fans should want too — he can’t be paying a huge chunk of the team’s salary to a declining player who doesn’t move the needle anymore. And for those saying the Heat insulted Wade, I’d LOVE if my employer insulted me with a $40-million offer. Oh the gall! So what if Riley pursued Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside before Wade in an effort to contend once again.
His job is to put the best basketball product possible on the court. Considering Durant is a Top 5 player and Whiteside is seven years younger, they absolutely should take priority over Wade. It’s not a sign of disrespect but purely about performance.
Yet a sect of the nationally media will point out how Wade was never the highest paid player in his 13 seasons in Miami. It’s a catchy talking point but if they bothered to take a closer look at the facts it actually makes sense.
Bulls' reported 2yr, $48mil offer would give Wade highest salary of his career. Never was Heat's highest paid player pic.twitter.com/LAWGcguBFL
— Stu Jackson (@Stuart_Jackson1) July 7, 2016
From 2003 to 2007, Wade was on a rookie deal tailored to where he was selected in the draft, making it IMPOSSIBLE to be the highest paid player.
From 2007 to 2010 he was making the MAXIMUM he was allowed, given years of service in the league. Shaq, Shawn Marion, and Jermaine O’Neal were all acquired via trade and all on monster deals.
From 2010 to 2014 — the golden years — Wade was among the highest paid players on the team and could have made exactly the same as Chris Bosh and LeBron James but decided — under his own will — to take less so buddy Udonis Haslem could resume his career in Miami. It was Wade’s choice to sacrifice dollars for rings and friendship.
In 2014, it got interesting, as Dan Le Batard reveals how Bosh’s agent, Henry Thomas (who also happens to rep Wade), demanded Bosh get a max contract or he was off to Houston. Wade had already opted out of his max deal to make room for a max contract for James and got screwed in the process.
Last season, the Heat signed Wade to a maximum one-year deal worth $20 million, far exceeding his market value considering he was coming off two injury-riddled years with obvious signs of decline. That deal was a make-good for past services and for more flexibility this summer.
So that Wade was “never the highest paid player” was technically true it’s still poo because it ignores the underlying facts.
Back to the divorce.
A big part of this is the massive egos of Wade and Riley. Wade wants to still be treated like the superstar he was while Riley only sees championships, more so now than ever after LeBron’s departure just led to what nobody saw coming: a Cavs title. Nobody to blame there, as that same ego has helped make Wade and Riley into NBA legends.
Another layer of this is getting old.
I’ll never forget how difficult it was when my father was trying to convince my then 94-year-old grandfather he shouldn’t be driving anymore. Eventually it was no longer up for discussion and my father took the keys. Riley finally took Wade’s keys.
The physical starts to diminish far ahead of the mental as your ego and stubbornness play tug of war with reality. There’s no winner here. No solution. Getting old sucks.
Besides the Heat being in a better position now to rebuild into contender status more quickly, we also won’t have to see Wade’s game erode first hand, melting away from greatness into sadness, like Kobe’s final seasons. For that I’m grateful because I want to remember Wade for what he was not what he’s about to become.
The Heat offered Wade the maximum they felt comfortable with (also the most they could sans trading players) while still having the hope of contending moving forward. This is despite the sharpest basketball minds knowing the Heat was probably always better off basketball wise without Wade at this stage of his career.
Wade’s ego craved for attention and more dollars. Riley dared Wade to leave and he did, which will end up being the best for both parties because no longer are their priorities aligned.
The Miami Heat will always be Dwyane Wade’s team, no matter how many other uniforms he wears as his Hall-of-Fame career winds down. Does anyone remember Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards?
Miami will always be Dwyane Wade’s city — he’ll be back for retirement. American Airlines Arena will always be his house. His jersey will shine in the rafters. A statue will rise on the arena’s steps.
Thanks for the memories, Flash.
Now bundle up.