In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got outta hand fast."
In a matter of days, the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade have suddenly found themselves perched on a knife's edge. Unlike the Heat's last big "decision" — involving a certain LeBron James — the team has much more control over the outcome this time. Heat fans also have a decision to make. They must decide what matters most to them: loyalty or success.
The choice is clear: The Heat should meet Wade's demands even if it hurts the teams' chances of winning for the next three years.
Last week, the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson broke the news: Wade and the Heat disagree about his pay in a new deal, and now he's entertaining the idea of leaving South Florida. Wade, it seems, might want to make back some of the money he lost over the past five years while trying to make that whole Big Three thing work financially.
Heat execs probably don't disagree, but they seem to disagree over just how much they owe him at the end of his career. The disparity, coupled with the team's constant juggling of the salary cap in relation to what makes sense for the future of the franchise, could mean Wade bolts to a team willing to pay better for his final years.
There's plenty of time to stop this bitterness train before it runs off the rails, though. It's time for both parties, and Miami Heat fans, to take a step back and practice what they preach.
Unexpected as Wade's impasse may be, it doesn't feel all that unfamiliar to Miami fans. Our local version of the "LeBron vs. Jordan" debate here in Miami is "Marino vs. Wade." History has a way of repeating itself, and it seems that if the Heat and Wade can't get on the same page in the next month, he could leave on a sour note just as Marino did after his 62-7 playoffs loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999.
Back then, Marino's body began to break down much like Wade's has in the past few years. Fans began to favor possible positive future outcomes without Marino over what he had meant to the franchise during the prior decade. Not surprisingly, many took the "What have you done for me lately?" attitude toward Marino, pointing out it wasn't all that much, and felt comfortable pushing aside what was, and in 2015 still is, the greatest Miami Dolphins player of all time.
The Dolphins would go on to have some success over the next few years with Jay Fiedler but never won anything — and now Dolphins fans would trade it all back for a few more memories of Marino under center.
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Heat should fans show some maturity and not make that same mistake with Wade. Players like Wade come around once or twice in a lifetime. The Heat preaches that its organization is a family and that its fans should be "Heat lifers," but when success comes at the expense of being cutthroat toward family members, were you really ever a family in the first place? Right now, the Heat and their fans should be most accurately judged not during the best of times, but during the tough, character-challenging times.
Wade should never put on another team's jersey to face off against the Miami Heat. Dolphins fans dodged a bullet in 2000 when Marino decided he would rather retire than play for the Minnesota Vikings. Heat fans won't be that lucky. Pat Riley needs to value Wade's sacrifices, commitment, and loyalty to the city of Miami since 2003 more than he values anything else that could possibly happen over the next three seasons on the court.
If it means choosing winning fewer games with Dwyane Wade than winning more without him, the Heat should be OK with the former.