It shouldn't be this way. Watching Dwyane Wade play basketball was never supposed to hurt. It was never supposed to make Miami Heat fans' pettiness flare. There was never supposed to be so much animosity toward the
greatest second-greatest athlete in the history of South Florida sports.
But here we are, watching the shadow of Wade play basketball in a number 9 jersey for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's gross. And it shouldn't have happened.
No matter whom you blame for Wade puttering to the end of his career while wandering the cold winter streets of Ohio, it's real and it will have a lasting impact on his legacy in Miami — not in a good way.
Here are a few reasons why Dwyane Wade's ring-chasing stint in Cleveland this season has drastically dulled the shine of his star in Miami.
1. Heat fans won't forget Wade chose money and LeBron James over Miami.
It's pretty simple: In the end, Wade felt as if he'd rather play for someone other than the Miami Heat. Twice. First, he took a couple extra million dollars from the Chicago Bulls, which he's since given back to escape to Cleveland. Then, after his buyout from the Bulls, he decided money and being "home" didn't matter anymore as long as LeBron was calling.
Cool. That's totally Wade's choice. But don't expect Miami Heat fans to forget it in ten years. Forgive? Sure. Forget? Not a chance. The Bulls years would have been forgettable, but there will be no erasing this year with the Cavs.
2. Wade can never be Dan Marino again.
This is not how it was supposed to end. Maybe it's how Wade wanted it to end, but it's not how it should have ended. The Heat reportedly offered him a two-year deal worth more than $40 million to stay in Miami in 2015. He
Marino's play had deteriorated as well, but he had chances to play elsewhere. He had an offer to play for the Minnesota Vikings. He turned it down. It would have been difficult to fault Marino for wanting to continue playing. Wade was offered $20 million-plus a year to stay with the only franchise he'd ever known. He turned it down.
You never get another chance to play for only one team in your career. Wade turned down that choice. That knocks him down a peg in Miami sports history, regardless of titles.
3. Wade's poorly aging game in Cleveland will leave a lasting image.
As of Tuesday, Wade was shooting 28 percent in his first three games with the Cavs, and his performance has looked even worse than that. His defensive game eroded long ago, but his old-man-savvy-offensive-game had survived until this season. From the looks of his first few games in Cleveland, not only isn't Wade the player he was when he left Miami, but he also isn't the player he was when he left Chicago last year.
He is bound to have some throwback performances, but Father Time is undefeated. Eventually, Wade will look terrible to end his career. The fact that it'll be in a number 9 jersey in Cleveland with fans booing him will be an image we will never forget.
4. Wade and Pat Riley's relationship will never be the same.
Sure, Pat Riley has made nice with former stars with whom he's had public breakups, but anyone who believes Wade and Riley will ever have the sort of relationship they would have had if Wade had finished his career in Miami is kidding themselves. Wade can return to fill an Alonzo Mourning type of role one day, but it's likely Riley won't be part of the organization by then. These were the final days, when Wade and Riley were meant to ride off into the sunset together one last time. One more rebuild. One more chance at a championship.
Now that window is closed. Wade could come back next season, but the Heat likely won't be a contender with or without him. He would be nothing more than what Udonis Haslem is these days: a locker-room leader, pseudo-coach, and all-around great teammate who rarely plays basketball. Shame.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
5. The #HeatLifer movement died with Wade's Miami career.
Remember the #HeatLifer campaign? Don't hear too much about it anymore, do ya? Nope. It's #HeatCulture now. You know why that happened?
No one is wearing a #HeatLifer T-shirt if Wade is choosing to come off the bench for the Cavaliers for the veterans' minimum salary. The franchise's reputation took a hit when Wade and Riley decided they didn't want to work things out. They are both to blame.
Actually, blame whomever you want. But this much is certain: Wade's Heat legacy will never be what it could have been if he had never left Miami.