Numbers never lie, at least that’s how the saying goes. If numbers don’t lie, they can certainly bend the truth a little bit.
When it comes to professional athletes, number are quite often deceiving. Outside of statistics, the two biggest numbers that can be deceiving are dollar amount and years with a franchise. Loyalty between the players and the organizations sometimes are committed to the money and years of service.
The ultimate goal for any player should be to win multiple championships. Recently Kevin Durant decided to chase championships with the stacked roster of the Golden State Warriors. He was criticized for “jumping on the bandwagon.” In that scenario, Durant decided to leave the only franchise he has ever played for in hopes of winning that elusive first ring.
The players that have already won championships have a different perspective the older they get. Some want to continue to add to their legacies with the team that took a chance on them when they drafted them. Along with that, some want to be rewarded for previous accomplishments, which is completely understandable. Kobe Bryant got paid a bunch of money by the Lakers for all he had did for the franchise, despite not being the Kobe of old due to multiple injuries in the final stages of his Hall of Fame career. Dirk Nowitzki recently agreed to a two-year, $40 million deal to remain with the Mavericks.
Some players will seek the max dollar, regardless of where they get it from. A change of scenery is often sought out as well and a lot of times, a lot of money is thrown around to lure players to other franchises. Then you have the players who either want to play for their hometown team (if an opportunity presents itself) or to play with their friends or other superstars.
Owners of franchises need to ask themselves a couple of questions when it comes to determining who to throw a boatload of money at. First, do you reward a player who has done so much for your franchise over the years, despite the window slowly closing? Second, do you let said player walk and have a bunch of cap space moving forward? Some owners think they are beyond fair when offering certain players, the contracts they do.
Dwyane Wade announced on Wednesday night that he was leaving the Miami Heat after 13 years with the franchise to go play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. Wade turned down Miami’s offer of two-years, $40 million and accepted the Bulls’ offer of two-years, $47.5 million. When Wade met with Heat owner Micky Arison on Tuesday in New York, he felt he wasn’t appreciated enough by Miami after not getting a third year on the deal.
The Heat selected Wade with the fifth overall pick in the historic 2003 NBA draft. In his 13 years of service in South Beach, Wade helped lead the Heat to championships on three different occasions. He was one of the biggest proprietors in helping land LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He even took a pay cut for the two stars to bring their talents south. Speaking of pay cuts, Wade was never once the highest paid player on the Miami roster. He felt he should be paid as such, but Arison and Pat Riley had other ideas despite all that Wade has done and meant to the organization.
The Miami Heat organization showed absolutely no loyalty to Wade. In fact, he was the third item on the free agent to-do list. Miami locked up center Hassan Whiteside to the tune of four-years, $98 million dollars. After securing Whiteside, the Heat turned their attention to the most coveted free agent on the market, Kevin Durant. Then came the offer to Wade, who was seeking more money. Wade has always been loyal to the Heat and taking pay cuts shows how much winning championships meant to him. Arison and company thought they got all they could out of the 34-year old Wade.
In the pitch to Durant, they didn’t include Wade in the future plans. They had no one to make Durant feel like he had the chance to win a championship. Now with the subtraction of Wade amongst the likes of Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, the Heat will have a ton of cap space entering next year’s loaded free agent class. They will be able to attract big names due to the fact there is no state income tax, the lifestyle and the scenery. What they can no longer pitch is the “family” or “loyalty” theme, that went out the window with the departure of Wade. Called a “Heat Lifer” several times by Riley, none of that came to fruition as Wade decided to head back home to Chicago. Still, someone in that organization (current or past players, management) could open up possibilities of Miami landing some of the biggest free agents of 2017. But the way Wade and the Heat organization parted ways will surely be a topic in those discussions.
The loyalties between players and owners is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Money talks and more often than not, that is the deciding factor in whether a player sticks with his only franchise he’s ever known or leaves elsewhere. Loyalty is a two-way street, especially in professional sports, but at the end of the day, it is still a business.