This is not the way it was supposed to end. Dwyane Wade, 12 time all-star and 3 time NBA champion, will retire in a different jersey than he has worn for the first 13 years of his career. He gave the Miami Heat their first championship, and gave Pat Riley his last ring as a coach, and now Dwyane Wade will give his next two seasons to the Chicago Bulls.
Pat Riley has not yet spoken about the outcome publicly, but sent a text to the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard detailing his feelings.
“SADDDDDDD!!!! SO saddddddd! I will never forget the sixth game in Dallas in 2006. DW rebounded the ball, and threw it to the heavens and the Heat universe was perfect for that moment. Our first world championship. Our universe is not perfect today. It will be fraught with anger, judgment, blame instead of THANK YOU!!!” The Hall of Fame coach added “He will always be a part of us. ALWAYS!” and “Forever, for always, your coach I will be. FOREVER!”
Wade in turn released a heartfelt note to Riley, owner Mickey Arison and the Heat faithful.
Wade’s departure came at the end of a deteriorating relationship between Wade and the Heat front office. While Wade cites the ability to play in the city he grew up in as his primary motivation for leaving, it is believed around the league that Wade felt underappreciated through the last two seasons. The Heat superstar took pay cuts during his prime on several occasions to allow Riley to build championship caliber teams and was very active in recruiting Lebron James to South Beach. This year, the front office’s initial offer to Wade was a lowball $10 million as the team attempted to pursue free agent Kevin Durant. Once Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors the Heat raised their offer to 2 years, $41.5 million but the damage had already been done.
While many fans are angey at the front office, Riley’s perspective offers some rationale for his actions. Faced with trying to build a team for the future, the 9 time NBA champion was looking to create another championship team, and would not be satisfied with just the third seed in the east. Bringing in Durant would have not only make the Heat immediate championship contenders, it would have given them a future on Durant’s 27 year old shoulders instead of Wade’s 34 year old ones.
Swinging for the fences in free agency worked for Riley in 2010 with LeBron James, so he had reason to think he could do it again. Unfortunately it does not always work. However there are some that argue Riley, always a master schemer, put Wade on a back burner on purpose so that Wade would initiate the break up. While fans in ‘Miami-Wade’ county mourn the departure of the most loved and most successful athlete to ever call South Florida home, Riley has as peacefully as possible moved a player with questionable health, declining efficiency and a large contract away from Miami. But just because it may have been the right business move does not mean Riley is happy to see Wade go.
It was messy, no one likes what happened, and all parties have expressed sadness over the situation. Not messy like LeBron’s televised departure, or Durant’s fleeing to the team that just beat him. Just a deep, empty sadness. Wade’s retirement party in South Beach will never happen and Heat fans will have to witness their beloved star play against the team he built. The player who brought home more championships than the Marlins ever have, than the Dolphins ever have, is gone. Breakups are never easy.
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