Wade has reasons to be upset over how the offseason has played out—42 million of them, in fact.
That's how much money was left on the final two years of his contract, which he opted out of to increase the franchise's summer spending power.
The ultimate goal of that pursuit was to keep four-time NBA MVP LeBron James on board by bringing him the help he clearly didn't have (follow required) in the 2014 NBA Finals. However, the King headed back to Cleveland, leaving Wade on the losing end of his $42 million wager.
He could have looked to recoup that money and then some in his next deal with the Heat. After signaling his return on Twitter, some wondered if he'd done just that.
He hadn't. According to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, Wade agreed to a two-year deal worth in the range of $32-34 million:
As confirmed by Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick, the contract includes a player option for the second season:
Regardless of where Wade's salary comes down, it's clear a sacrifice has been made—a sacrifice he did not have to make.
Some might argue the extent of that sacrifice, but the exercise is nothing more than wasted energy. Assuming he signed off on a $17 million salary, he'll collect roughly 81 percent of the money he was originally owed. That's a steep price for anyone to pay no matter how their bank statements read.
There's no way of getting that money back, either.
Sure, Miami could inflate his next deal, but the 32-year-old could inflate his own value if his body starts to cooperate. Is it that hard to imagine someone who just averaged 19.0 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game striking it rich on the open market?
What if his body fails him? After all, he's missed 58 games over the last three seasons and has a knee problem dating back to his college days.
That uncertainty would lead plenty of people to secure a long-term deal as an insurance policy on themselves. While it may have saved the Heat some money up front, it would have restricted their ability to land impact players in future free-agent classes.
And you know what? That wouldn't have been his problem.
Players can and should take the best possible deal available to them.
Professional athletes have a finite earnings window. They get older, their bodies break down and the Brink's trucks stop showing up in their driveways.
The goal for players, as with employees in any field, is to maximize their worth. Remember, these are life-changing contracts not only for the players that earn them, but also for their families for generations to come.
With that said, the option to take less is available for those who choose to pursue it.
Wade is one of the few who has. He's always been that way, as ESPN.com's Michael Wallace noted:
When fans think of franchise talents, an array of images comes to mind: highlight-reel finishes, clutch plays, championship celebrations. Moves like the one Wade just made, though, belong in that discussion—maybe at its forefront.
The Heat have supported him before, and Wade is now returning the favor.
However, this isn't about paying off past debts. If one party owes another here, the Heat are still indebted to Wade, and that was true before his latest team-friendly deal.
He played the lead role on the franchise's first championship team, earning Finals MVP honors in 2006 after averaging 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the series.
He opened Miami's second championship window by first recruiting LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach, and then taking less money than his Big Three running mates to leave enough for support pieces to fall in place.
Because leaving money on the table wasn't enough—not for the type of franchise star Wade is—he then opted to give James everything: his offense, his locker room, his organization and his city.
For the Heat to become world champions again, Wade told ESPN.com's Israel Gutierrez in May 2012 he had to cede complete control to James:
I just had some time to sit back and think a lot. I just realized what we're playing for, and what I'm playing for.
LeBron is probably the most talented player we've seen in a while, but how good can we be? Are we going to be good if me and him are both scoring 27 a night? Yeah, we're gonna be good, but it would be too much, 'OK, it's your turn, now it's your turn.'
I wanted to give him the opportunity where he didn't have to think about that. It's kind of like I told him, 'Listen, I'll find my way. Don't worry about me. I'll be there. But you go out and be the player that we want you to be.'
Wade was 29 years old entering the 2011-12 campaign, coming off a season in which he averaged 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per contest. The Heat won 58 games the previous year, second-most in the Eastern Conference, and made their first of four consecutive NBA Finals trips.
It didn't seem like anything needed to change, yet Wade saw a way for the franchise to get better.
His personal sacrifice was needed to make that move—his scoring fell to 22.1 points per game in 2011-12—but back then, just like now, he put the team before himself.
He made the "Heatles" era possible, and now he has positioned the organization to survive its transition into life after LeBron.
Thanks to Wade's willingness to take less than market value, the Heat have been able to make impactful investments: five years and $118 million for Chris Bosh, two years and $20 million for Luol Deng, four years and $23 million for Josh McRoberts.
That's more than enough to contend in the Eastern Conference, plus the Heat can go big-game hunting again in 2016. If their championship window is closed, it certainly isn't sealed shut.
All the credit for that goes back to Wade. Injuries and maintenance programs might have clouded his importance to the basketball world as a whole, but the Heat have never misjudged his value.
"Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life," team president Pat Riley said in a statement shared with NBA.com after Wade's decision to opt out.
Somehow, someway, Wade will make sure that happens. Whatever is best for the Heat has always been best for him.
He's the ultimate franchise star in every respect, and his new contract is just the latest piece of evidence supporting that fact.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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