“For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.” – Proverbial rhyme, on Dwyane Wade
It has been reported that LeBron James has decided to opt out of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The move comes seven days before the free agency period can begin, so the Heat now have a week to come up with a plan to improve the roster and get LeBron to re-sign to an extension.
For the Heat and LeBron, this was always the right move and should surprise no one. The Heat can now gain flexibility to reload the roster. LeBron can help shape the new direction. This was the plan.
However, that plan lives or dies by the decision of one man.
Now Dwyane Wade must ask himself how much $43 million is really worth.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Wade’s play on the court just made him the Heat’s most important player. Not because of how well he played, but because of how poorly he looked in the Finals and the questions about his durability going forward. Wade’s body has let him down and now the spotlight shines down on him.
Wade opting out of his contract would allow him to make more money over the course of four years. But will his body allow him to get that far? Does he question that? And how much does he think he’s worth?
But he has sacrificed so much.
This was his team. LeBron and Chris Bosh came to him. They would unite to own the NBA. To win championships. They were supposed to usher in a new dynasty. All of that mostly happened.
Except it was Wade who took the backseat. It was Wade whose body had failed him.
It was Wade who surrendered the throne.
Now he sits in the eye of the storm. The future of the Miami Heat is in his hands. Again. Like it was in 2003, when the Heat drafted him fifth overall. Like it was in 2005, when an injury prevented him from playing in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and didn’t let him finish Game 7.
Or in 2006, when he put the Heat on his back, and carried them to the franchise’s first championship.
Now his decision can keep a dynasty together, or it can destroy it.
But how much is $43 million worth to a 32 year old basketball player that has seen his body break down? How many years does he have left? How much is money to somebody that has already sacrificed enough?
We already talk so much about LeBron’s legacy. But what about Wade’s? It was Wade’s style of play that more closely resembled Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s than LeBron’s does. Before the summer of 2010, Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James was a legitimate on-the-court debate. Wade lost the 2009 MVP to LeBron, but it could be argued that he actually had the better year. But Wade opted to end the debate by getting LeBron to come to Miami. In essence, he altered what could have been a legacy-defining duel.
Up until this past summer, I don’t think he was ready to admit that. When the Heat won the 2013 Finals, he was the one that gave himself the nickname “Three”, as a reminder that he’s the one with three rings. He had his social media feud with Kevin Durant, over James Harden’s omission from a Top-10 player list that included Wade.
Now his body can’t do what his mind and heart want it to do. You can see it with every failed weak-side close out. You see it with every behind the back dribble that he loses control of. Or whenever Erik Spoelstra sits him for maintenance.
Now his legacy comes back into focus. Will he be remembered as the superstar that willingly passed the throne off to another king and allowed the kingdom to prosper? Or would he be remembered as an athlete that took the money during the twilight of his career?
I’ve thought that Wade was the Heat’s Dan Marino. He was the player that defined the franchise for the fans of South Florida. Always doing what was best for the team, even as his body was telling him to slow it down. He has roots here and is a big part of the community. The mere thought of him leaving in 2010 would have been crippling. Instead, he brought re-enforcements.
Much like Marino, Wade has a decision to make where he’ll have to take less money to help the team going forward. “To help you, we need you to do this” is what a team will say. Marino did that. That’s what happens when you’re the franchise’s most important player. You sacrifice.
Marino’s legacy will always be the superstar that never won a title, because he lacked help around him. Wade has won, because his sacrifices allowed help to come to him.
I believed in Dan Marino then.
I believe in Dwyane Wade now.
I believe he’ll sacrifice again. Wade has always looked at the big picture. Success drives him. He understands that he can still help, but in different ways. That will be his legacy, and that’s something he can look back on with fondness.
Even if LeBron decided to leave, Wade’s decision would allow Miami to reload, with Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry, or any number of free agents that can be coveted. Plus they would have money available for 2015 (presumably Kevin Love) or 2016 (presumably Kevin Durant). But I feel that LeBron’s future is tied to whatever Wade decides to do.
The proverbial rhyme I referenced in the opening was one I learned in high school. I’ve always been a fan of it because it shows the importance of something so small and how it can change the course of history. Sure, $43 million isn’t a small figure, but it’s the nail that can keep the kingdom from falling.
What is $43 million worth?
It’s the difference of being a nail in a coffin, or the nail in retooling a kingdom.