Not about the money is not money

In the Summer of 2010, there were three basketball players one singular question: Has the organization you play for done enough to win a championship?  For two of the three, the answer was no. The one who held the championship also held the sway and the respect of his franchise and the Big Three was born. The Miami Heat and Dwayne Wade were on the same page. And Dwayne Wade would agree to take less money to make sure the team had the pieces to win. At that moment in time, it wasn’t about the money.

In 2014, when Lebron took his talents from South Beach back to Cleveland, Dwayne Wade gave up money. In the summer of 2015, Dwayne Wade took less money by not demanding a multiple year deal. During these years, it wasn’t about the money.

However, if ESPN’s Sunday Conversation shows Dwayne Wade explaining his move to the Chicago Bulls was not about the money, then we are cashing out. Very simply, the only move that would’ve not been about the money is if he would’ve joined Lebron in Cleveland. So, either it is about the money or Lebron didn’t give him an escape hatch near his hometown of Akron.

Athletes with irrational confidence notwithstanding, Dwayne Wade cannot believe the Chicago Bulls have a better shot at winning a championship than the Cavaliers. So is it not about putting another ring on the finger. Unless Lebron didn’t offer Wade a Cavalier opportunity, then the answer is about money.

Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat were partners for number #3s entire career. And Dwayne has a keen business sense. Is it fair to say that Wade’s brand would’ve suffered had he jettisoned the Miami Heat for the hated Cleveland Cavaliers? The argument could be made. Chicago was the safer choice and coming back home was better for his brand. So the answer is about money.

The team that offered the most money was Denver. But Denver would not make the playoffs, meaning no extra playoff share. Chicago has more media coverage, more marketing opportunity, more human interest storylines, more opportunities beyond basketball. Chicago offers more financial opportunity than Denver overall. So was it really not about the money?

Could the answer be about respect also? Of course it can. But respect, in this case, also came in the form of money. And Chicago, even with state tax unlike Miami, offered a little bit more. Respect or money or both?

The great thing was that Dwayne Wade make his hallmark career not about the money. Money always took a backseat. And this isn’t Latrell Spreewell saying he needed to feed his family. There is no shame in saying it is about the money. But Dwayne Wade saying it isn’t about the money put a little shame into it.

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Wade and Trump and the respect factor

Tonight’s ESPN Sunday Conversation, a network staple, will tell the Dwayne Wade story, circa 2016 and will repeat it throughout the week. It is not the story of “Flash”, earning respect from Shaquille O’Neal and winning his first championship. It is not the story of using that earned respect and collecting two Hall of Famers from disrespected franchises to win two more championships. This story has respect running dry in Miami and rekindled in Chicago. This story has continued long since the NBA championship was decided and weeks since Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State. It is clear the ESPN narrative of choice is not about what move impacts the NBA more but what move impacts it’s audience more.

People may recognize the 2016 Kevin Durant story because it played in 2010 by Lebron James. They both chose to leave because they felt their NBA legacies would be served better elsewhere. In 2010, James’ was influenced by Dwayne Wade to come. In 2016, Kevin Durant was influenced not to come by the Dwayne Wade situation. Lebron paved the way for Durant to make his choice and make the Dwayne Wade choice more salivated for by ESPN because of the demographic they are appealing to

If Millennials were the target of this athletic injustice, it would be promoted more than the release of Dahntay Jones from Cleveland or the Draymond Green penis picture. If you want to find snippets to promote the Sunday Conversation, you may visit the less traveled ESPN NBA page. This story resonates more with the older, white male demographic that has experienced the lack of respect at their jobs and moved unceremoniously to other destinations by choice or force. The story is geared toward the constituents of Donald Trump, the souls who feel forgotten for their past and future sacrifices.

Dwayne Wade (and his mutually famous wife, Gabrielle Union), were willing participants in speaking with the SportsLeader. They have a multifaceted story to tell with two narratives viewers can relate to. It is, at once, a story about coming home to wealth of respect and leaving home, where respect was earned but not given. Tonight, Dwayne’s message was that he asked primarily for more respect and not for more money. Chicago gave Wade both just like the favored demographic gives Trump both for his candidacy for President. Trump’s white male demographic will hear both of Dwayne’s messages tonight and yearn for an America that respects them when both are home and away.

If it was 2010, the Sunday Conversation would not focus on Lebron James but on the entire city of Cleveland, ignored and disrespected and looking to lash out at those who pushed their boundaries and stole their native son. These are also the constituents of Donald Trump. Because it is 2016, Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City were not primary stories because both do not elicit emotional attachment. Kevin Durant turned tail on being a primary focal point and went to a more comfortable position. The Oklahoma City team turned tail on Seattle, even after sellouts year after year. Each party has moved on and each story will remain dormant until the NBA season starts in earnest. Kevin Durant isn’t even getting the most attention on his own team (Draymond Green everybody!).

After the Dwayne Wade Sunday Conversation, there will likely be a future Chris Bosh Sunday Conversation because his story will end in a narrative of lack of respect, which will again play well to the ESPN passion play for Trump supporters. In both cases, the Miami Heat will play the villain (which, in many ways, is deserved). It is the hated establishment, the conglomerate that did not make good to its employees and, in the end, deserves an unenviable fate.

It is familiar territory: It is how the Lebron James story was positioned back to Cleveland and it is being replayed this evening. But it is not because ESPN disrespects Miami (though many would disagree). It is just because the SportsLeader knows who to play to, on the television side, just like the Donald would do.

The Wade discount to the Bulls

When the ugliest sports vernacular like “discounts” and “it’s a business” have been uttered in South Florida, it’s a Dwayne Wade and Miami Heat tussle. It isn’t the Miami Dolphins because they pay full price and it isn’t the Miami Marlins because they don’t pay anything. It could only mean Dwayne Wade and the Heat. The last two years have included cryptic messaging and passive aggressive behavior from professionals acting like children. This is framed as “business” but there was more maturity found in a daycare center. The good news is the spatting is finally over and, like most wars, nobody really won.

The discount was at the heart of all the dissension. How much was given up by Wade the year before and how much would be earned in the future? Is a discount an admission of diminishing talent and worth? Or is the discount for the betterment of the team and had the discount been enough in past years to lead to this moment of truth?  It’s all negligible and that includes the interpretation of the fans.

Miami Heat nation gave a discount for the Dwayne Wade experience. Heat Nation enjoyed three championships, incredible basketball, and the relationships that Dwayne Wade fostered to make American Airlines arena a star studded event night after night. The trade off was a win for the fans and the ownership, but it wasn’t perfect. Who knows that more than Dwayne Wade?

Where Miami affectionately called Wade’s “old man game” is where some in Chicago have considered their new acquisition as straight outta AARP. Father prime’s age isn’t the only thing that will be brought into question about the sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer:

  • That help brand of defense Wade habitually plays. It has happened more as he has gotten older, to the tune of Miami giving up 4 fewer points per game while #3 was on the bench last year. He may be a Bull but he really acts like a matador on the defensive end.
  • Making one out of two free throws. He makes the “and 1s” without fail but his 76.9 career percentage is what it is. From a mid-range shooting Hall of Fame two guard, that percentage is average at best.
  • His Hall of Fame mindset. Wade will turn 35 in January 2017 but, as he mentioned this year, he may still feel 28 and be just as ball dominant as ever. Is Jimmy Butler going to be the #2? That won’t go well.
  • How’s that unproven head coach and Wade relationship going to work out? Erik Spoelstra had a special long term relationship with this dynamic player which allowed more autonomy then most.
  • Like the head coach relationship, Dwayne Wade has had long standing, professional relationships that have helped his media obligations and nurtured his star profile. Judging the early returns, it may be a little rougher in Chicago.

These were all discounts that Miami Heat nation gave throughout the years and would give more of had Dwayne Wade remained in South Florida. The question now is: how much of a discount will Chicago give compared to South Florida? Was the minimal, at best, increase in earnings worth the scrutiny that will likely come? Did Dwayne Wade discount the loyalty that was earned through 13 years of sacrifice? These are the questions awarded to a fresh start with the bittersweet ending.