Miami Heat Needs to Pay Dwyane Wade Even if It Hurts Team's Title Chances

Two years ago, then-free agent Dwyane Wade ended another game of chicken with the Miami Heat by posting these words to Instagram: "Home is where the heart is... My home, my city, my house... #HeatLifer." At the time, the Heat needed him more than he needed them. After four straight trips to the NBA Finals, LeBron James had just hit the eject button on his time in Miami. The Heat had just outbid the Houston Rockets by, in retrospect, an unnecessary amount to retain Chris Bosh. The team was a stacked-high mountain of Jenga pieces on the verge of toppling over. They desperately needed Wade to be there to catch it. 

He did just that and then some.

Wade took a two-year, $31.1 million deal back in 2014, roughly an $11 million pay cut over two years from the previous deal he opted out of, which was for two years and $42 million. Wade did so to ensure the Miami Heat could further heal from not only an ass-whooping handed down by the San Antonio Spurs, but the loss of the greatest basketball player on planet Earth.

Wade placed the team's best interests above his own in 2014. He was there for them. And now that Wade is once again a free agent, it's time for the Heat to be there for him.

That's what family does. That's what the Miami Heat has asked players to do for them for years. That is what it will take to finish the final chapters in Wade's legendary career in Miami. If that story ended with Wade leaving Miami for two years in Milwaukee, it would leave a bad taste in Heat fans' mouths forever.

The hit Miami-based HBO show Dexter was great for so long. Then, the show changed writers and the last few seasons were a travesty. Wade leaving Miami to play a year or two for the Dallas Mavericks would be like that. 

So many people, rightfully so, refer to Dan Gilbert's infamous comic sans letter to LeBron after he left Cleveland for Miami in a derogatory way, but one line of that letter sticks out as something that might be pertinent to the Heat's constant chance of a title. 

"Some people think you should go to heaven, but NOT have to die to get there," Gilbert wrote back then.

It might be time for the Miami Heat to realize making good with the man who is most responsible for all the things they are praised for might be what is most important in 2016. Not Kevin Durant. Not a handful more wins. Not a few more playoff games. Making sure Dwayne Wade never slips on another team's jersey is what is most important. That legacy will live on forever. That will last far longer than the buzz another title run without him would garner. 

It's time for the Miami Heat to realize the bills are now due on all those loyalty credit cards it charged up from 2010 to 2014. Would the Heat and its fans really feel 100 percent good about chasing a ring if it meant tarnishing Wade's legacy with the franchise? Are we really ready to make that deal? If so, it's time for the #HeatLifer campaign to end.

Everyone realizes the NBA is a business, but sometimes showing loyalty and going above and beyond to keep a relationship intact is the best business move. People are always watching; that's why the Heat has the reputation it has today. Is it really worth losing a large chunk of that due to ego? 

When the statue of Dwyane Wade dunking over Anderson Varejao is erected on the steps of the American Airlines Arena, it would be a shame for fans to look up at it and in the back of their minds remember how Wade and the team parted ways on a sour note.

Dan Marino almost went to the Minnesota Vikings when the Miami Dolphins decided they were done with him. Thankfully, that never happened, and the image of an old Marino limping around in Lambeau Field in a purple helmet is not a thing Dolphins fans ever had to live through. Marino's memory in Miami is clean, even without the banners. 

Wade has always been there for the Miami Heat when it needed him most. It's now time for the team to return the favor. Miami Heat fans are proud of the teams' banners. They enjoyed the parades. But what really endears them to the Heat is its reputation for being one of the classiest teams in all of sports. They will understand if the next title chase is harder in the name of taking care of D-Wade.

Most of us would rather lose with Wade than win against him. And that's the way it should be.