When James departed after two titles and four consecutive runs to the finals, Riley called it the most devastating blow of his time in Miami, but Wade insisted there were no hard feelings. It was business. He was still being paid to play basketball, live in Miami. How could life not be good?
Yet he wasn’t immune to wounded pride when Riley refused to give him a third contract year in 2016, citing Wade’s balky knees and declining stats. Wade left, reluctantly, one more divorce in a league of ever-transient stars.
There’s nothing wrong, nothing at all, with players maximizing free agency, leveraging their way to whichever location suits them at a certain career stage. James of course has been the pied piper of the paradigm. Kevin Durant is reportedly poised to again follow his lead, right out of Golden State.
But James’s presence in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, a convenient excuse to avoiding dealing with Magic Johnson’s sudden, stunning disappearance from the Lakers’ front office, was a reminder that the more moves a player makes, the better the odds he might eventually outmaneuver himself.
Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki, like Wade, was also demonstrating the currency in continuity, finishing a 21-year run Wednesday night with the Dallas Mavericks to widespread acclaim. Manu Ginobili and Duncan were similarly deified for staying the course in San Antonio. Wade will remain the toast of South Florida.
In the Miami locker room, a few young Heat players lined up for Wade to sign their jerseys and sneakers. The No. 3 jersey he wore was given to Anthony, a shooter without a squad after parting ways with Paul’s Houston Rockets this season after a mere 10 games.
Anthony did manage to scoop up a ball rolling out-of-bounds in the fourth quarter by the corner front row from where he, Paul and James were cheering on Wade, He took one dribble and, thankfully, resisted the temptation.