Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley, and the price of being a fan.

May 15, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the first quarter in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 116-89. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the first quarter in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 116-89. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

"You’re actually rooting for laundry when you get right down to it. – Jerry Seinfeld"

For Miami Heat fans, in regards to Dwyane Wade, that quote is getting put to the test.

With Wednesday’s news of his signing with the Chicago Bulls, Wade’s 13-year stint as the Heat’s franchise player comes to an end under a dark cloud of mistrust. A sad ending to an illustrious career for a player that is as synonymous with Miami as sunshine, beaches, and bad drivers.

The dirty laundry that has and will be aired out in the coming days and weeks will likely paint a picture of betrayal that will have Heat fans choosing sides, against Wade or Pat Riley. Wade, the legendary player facing the twilight of his career, vs. Riley, the cut-throat executive trying to find any angle to get his team back to the top.

The idea of paying a big money deal for extended years to a 34-year old shooting guard that has only played more than 65 games twice in the last five years on a team with Chris Bosh, someone that is a major question to not only play again, but to do so at a high level, is something that can cripple a franchise in the long run. Tying up close to $45 million annually on two players with major health concerns is basically handcuffing Riley for the near future.

To compound matters, the Brooklyn Nets signed Tyler Johnson to a four year, $50 million offer sheet that the Heat have until Sunday to match, or else they lose him for nothing. The concern with that is the contract balloons to roughly $38 million over the final two seasons, a questionable deal for a player that hasn’t played 70 games in his career. Not to mention the Heat are limited in both draft picks, and the ability to trade them (the next pick they can deal is for 2023), losing a talented, but unproven, 24-year old could prove to be counterproductive.

On the other hand, Wade is the face of the entire franchise. No matter all the big names that have graced the Heat over the years, the importance of Wade can’t be matched. To discard a player of that level two months after he put the team on his back for a somewhat improbable playoff run that ended one win short of the Eastern Conference Finals, while missing Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, can be a slap in the face to a fanbase wanting to show the NBA that the Heat were more than just You Know Who..

And trying to prioritize Tyler FREAKING Johnson over Wade? He hasn’t even played 70 games! Who is he to make $50 million and not Wade? If the Heat aren’t going to win the title, might as well let Wade take his take his victory lap into the sunset while getting paid for everything he’s done.

Wade vs. Riley.

The icon vs. the franchise.

How Wade and Riley got to this point might prove to be disgusting.

And in the grand scheme of things, it was the right decision.

It was something that could have been avoided, of course. Riley had big dreams of landing Kevin Durant once free agency opened and one could assume that Wade wasn’t exactly on board with that idea. The news of Wade’s displeasure broke after the Heat were able to secure a meeting with Durant, throwing Riley’s dream plan into a tailspin. Riley called Durant his “whale”, signifying the big name player that would take the franchise to the next level.

Of course, that term actually becomes quite fitting considering how everything went down.

The term “whale”, in this context, is in reference to the story Moby Dick, which tells the tale of Captain Ahab obsessing to kill the whale that took his leg in a previous encounter. If you’ve never read the book, or seen one of its various cinematic re-tellings, [SPOILER ALERT!] this obsession would prove to be his downfall as the whale destroys his ship, kills the crew and Ahab, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake.

That sounds kind of familiar.

Riley’s hunt for his whale had fractured the Heat’s relationship with its icon. How he treated him in the end was flat out wrong. There’s no debating that.

Wade is the pinnacle of South Florida sports. Older generations will plant their flag for Dan Marino, but that’s clinging to a more innocent time.

Marino’s emergence came at a time when football was the only game in the area – from 1966, as South Florida didn’t get a second franchise until 1988 – so his reign went largely unopposed, as fledgling teams were trying to find their way during his prime. Consider the Miami Dolphins like the British Empire, once a major, prosperous monarchy, and Marino as just the latest king in succession, with hopes of keeping the Empire strong. And like some kings, Marino was actually able to make it even stronger than previous reigns. The Dolphins ruled the land because there was nothing to stand in their way.

Now comes the Heat, causing a raucous as the new kid in town, getting the attention of a new generation with the shock of something different. But of course they have their ups and downs, and are just a gnat in comparison to the Dolphins Empire. However in 2003, that changes when Wade is drafted, a new star ready to challenge the Empire that has been stuck living off the successes of its past. With Wade, there is a paradigm shift as the new galvanizing force provided something new and wonderful that ran counter to the Old Guard.

The difference is while the Heat merely just existed, it was Wade that gave them both an identity and a voice. He was the Heat’s homegrown star, and fans had the chance to grow along with him. He led the revolution in South Florida that has now pushed the Dolphins into the past, now the fallen Empire. As great as Marino was, and I grew up with him as my Golden God, he didn’t do as much for the sports landscape as Wade ended up doing.

Forget about rings, because the two sports are completely different. Wade MADE the Miami Heat. Marino just perfected an already great situation.

Now that’s all gone.

Wade isn’t without fault, though. He helped put a lot of that dirty laundry out for the world to see. Maybe it’s because he saw what was coming and just lashed out. But this was the second consecutive summer he made a public stink about what was happening, and using You Know Who as some sort of Sword of Damocles as leverage is something out of high school.

As flawed as the Durant hunt was, the message was simple: the Heat are building for the new era. Wade clearly didn’t fit what Riley’s vision of that was. The Heat’s throne would have had Durant on it, while Wade was supposed to take a backseat. Of course, that wouldn’t – and didn’t – sit well with Wade. After the season he had, with the finish the Heat had, there was still enough in the tank for him to give it one more run. Why couldn’t he be the whale? He’s earned every right to write the final chapter of his Hall of Fame legacy on his terms, going down swinging as the alpha dog.

Because it’s also Riley’s chance to write the final chapter of his legacy.

Pride is a powerful motivator, and You Know Who going back to Cleveland and winning on his terms is enough to chip away at that pride. At the age of 71, this is his final act. To put the Heat in a position to contend in the long run, even after he’s retired, is his lasting impression. As much as it hurts, Wade doesn’t fit with that long-term plan. This current roster doesn’t exactly mesh with Wade, so bringing back a team that won’t be good enough to win, but not bad enough to take advantage of the few picks it has, is the same purgatory that doomed the Dolphins Empire.

Riley doesn’t deserve that ending. Nor does Wade.

Let Wade go home to Chicago. He’s earned the right to end things on his terms, in a city that is close to his heart.

Let Riley guide the Heat once last time, on his terms. He’s earned that right.

As much as Heat fans will hate how this ended, the next evolution of the Heat can begin.

But it hurts. Wade gave the Miami Heat an identity and hope. He put the team on the national stage and shined like no star in South Florida, Marino included, in that environment.

It was also Riley who built that foundation. The kingdom has grown strong in his 21 years in Miami, and he needs to prepare the throne for the new king that help guide the kingdom after he is gone. Is that Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson? Is that person even on the roster? Whomever that player is, he’s trying to get to Miami as fast as he can. Riley is just trying to help the process along.

It’s hardest for fans, as sports has become ingrained in the very fiber of our being. Now it simply depends how you enjoy your sports consumption. You can enjoy the laundry as much as you enjoy watching the athletes in them. It’s a different era where athletes come and go without a fleeting thought. Nowadays, it seems that we care more about the team than they do. But we grow closer to some more so than others, for whatever that reason may be: greatness, loyalty, or simply just because they made you smile. But in the end, the laundry is always what remains. We also want what’s best for the team.

Thank you, Pat Riley, for bringing him into our lives, and to have the best interest of the Heat in mind.

Thank you, Dwyane Wade, for all of this. You gave us something to rally around, as well as to believe in. We watched you grow up in front of our eyes, and a new generation of fans can now point to you as someone that gave them great pride.

Long live the king.