Dwyane Wade recently announced that 2018-19 would be his final season in the NBA, and more importantly, that it will happen as a member of the Miami Heat.
The announcement comes on the heels of Wade signing a new one-year, $2.4 mil deal to finish his career with the Heat, where he spent his first 13 NBA seasons after being drafted 5th overall by Miami in the 2003 draft.
Wade is without question the best player in Heat franchise history. He led them to a championship in 2006 alongisde Shaquille O’Neal, and won two more as a running mate to LeBron James, in 2011 and 2012.
He is the career franchise leader in points, assists, steals and games played. He averaged just over 30 pts/gm in 2008-09 to lead the league, and won the NBA Finals MVP in 2005-06, averaging 34.7 pts over 6 games against the Dallas Mavericks.
In fact, in that long first tour in Miami, from 2003-04 to 2015-16–when he left to join his hometown Chicago Bulls–Wade’s time was spent carving out a place as the 3rd greatest two-guard in NBA history behind only MJ and Kobe Bryant.
Wade’s 2019 campaign will be remnant in spirit to the farewell tour Bryant enjoyed in his final season for the L.A. Lakers in 2015-16, when NBA nostalgia followed Kobe and his hapless Lakers teammates around for 82 games, culminating with Bryant scoring 60 in a come from behind win at Staples in his final game.
For Wade, though, the experience will be markedly different on two fronts. Unlike the 2015-16 Lakers, The Heat are coming off a surprisingly strong 2017-18 that saw them lose to Philadelphia in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Miami has an encouraging young core, and was eager to have Wade–who was reacquired last season at the trade deadline from the Cleveland Cavaliers–return for one more year in an effort to contend.
And Wade’s farewell tour will also differ from Kobe’s in one more glaring way:
Flash will ride into the sunset on a $2.4 million horse.
Kobe did so on a $49 million yacht.
The $2.4 million figure is a significant departure for Wade, who signed for $23 mil to join the Bulls just three offseasons ago.
Time has since gotten the better of Wade, as well as his own grueling, inimitable style of play.
But unlike Bryant, who also endured countless injuries and whose durability was unquestioned, Wade’s sacrifice was always for the team.
Kobe’s sacrifice was in order to be the best ever. Dwayne Wade’s has always been to win the game. Their respective final contracts are another indicator of this quality.
Two of the greatest guards to ever play, both men could score at will, both were defensive standouts, and both peaked at winning time. If you were building a team you would take either one and never think twice.
Checks come on paper, though, and on paper the comparison becomes skewed. Bryant retired with 33,643 points (3rd all-time), won 5 NBA Finals with 1 Regular Season and 2 Finals MVPs and was an 18-time All-Star and made 15 All-NBA teams and 7 All-NBA Defensive teams.
By comparison, Wade has scored just over 20,000 points, has 3 Finals wins with 1 Finals MVP, has been a 12-time All-Star and made 8 All-NBA teams and 3 All-NBA defensive teams.
And since his retirement Kobe has even won an Oscar.
Perhaps things would be different had Wade never left Miami. Bryant stayed a Laker for his entire 19-year career, and in the end the franchise weighed maneuvering a neccessary rebuild against celebrating Bryant’s role in perpetuating the L.A. Lakers rich basketball history.
They said f**k the rebuild and gave the money to Kobe.
And Kobe agreed.
Wade’s legacy deal illustrates one major difference between 2nd and 3rd on the NBA’s Greatest 2-Guard list.
While each undoubtedly wants to go out on top, for Kobe Bryant that meant making $25 mil and scoring 60 points.
For Dwayne Wade, it means playing in Miami for $2.4 mil and getting one last dance.