We still don’t know what LeBron James is going to do, but we do know that he has options. Stay in Miami for a couple more seasons and the plan will be to get the band back together for one last hoorah by continuing to add to their legacy (one that includes two championships and four straight trips to the Finals). However, leave the sunny beaches of Miami to go, say, back home to Cleveland, and the wheels of that wagon will go flying down a steep hill to the deepest depths of the earth. Chris Bosh has made it known that he will swap his Heat jersey in for a Rockets one if LeBron flees, which would leave the Heat with only four players under contract for next season: Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Shabazz Napier and Josh McRoberts.
While the departure of Bosh and LeBron would be the Heat’s biggest nightmare, it isn’t all necessarily doom and gloom, seeing as they’d have all the cap room in the world to rebuild their roster. As for LeBron and Bosh, they would be leaving a place that brought them their first championships, but they’d be doing so for greener pastures; ones that give them a new platform for the same old opportunity.1
The Heat will wind up being okay no matter how this all shakes out, likewise, so will Bosh and LeBron. Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, is walking a thin line of spending the last few years of his illustrious career on a serious low. Following a dismal showing in the Finals, the 32-year old is in a dark place, hoping that the two other pieces of the Big Three return where they have called home for the last four season. If they don’t, he’ll be left all by his lonesome.
Wade has had a fantastic career, one that spans 11 seasons, three NBA championships, one Finals MVP, 10 All-Star appearances and an Olympic Gold. He will one day have his jersey raised to the rafters in the American Airlines Arena and he will one day hear his name mentioned in a Hall of Fame induction. However, the last few years haven’t been so kind to him, and it has became clear that he is no longer the threat he once was.
But he knows that. The load he could once carry on his shoulders has become too heavy and the days of him being the second option on an elite team are far gone. It’s why he opted-out of the final two years of his contract to become a free agent this summer; so he could re-sign a new, less exhaustive one and make room for some new faces that would better compliment the rest of the core.
The decision was the right one. Without it, Wade would’ve cut the Heat’s chances of retaining LeBron, and thus they’d certainly be in a situation they don’t want to be in — left with their pants down, trying to build up a roster from nothing. Nevertheless, it was a decision that left $42 million on the table, and it’s a sum of money he may never see again. No team in the NBA is prepared to offer him a contract close to that sum considering the 28 games he sat out this season to rest his knees weren’t enough to keep him going all the way to the Finals. He is no longer durable and is no longer worth the superstar contract he was once garnering.
While it’s a point which every professional athlete eventually reaches at some point in their career, it has happened much sooner than anyone ever expected for Wade. It’s the result of a surgery he had in 2002, when he removed his meniscus instead of repairing it, and he’s now paying the consequence. But that’s why athletes tend to go for the money when mulling over where they’ll spend their career — it’s guaranteed, no matter what happens or what injuries come their way. Carmelo Anthony is rumored to stay in New York, where he will sign a five-year contract worth nearly $130 million. It’s not his best chance of winning a championship, but it’s too good of an offer to turn down. Also, if he really wants out after a couple of seasons, the consensus is that he should be able to force his hand.
Within Anthony's circle, belief's been this, sources tell Y: Get NY's $129M now, figure out destination later. You can always get a trade.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 9, 2014
If LeBron and Bosh do leave Miami, it’s hard to see Wade going anywhere else. Besides the fact that no team would likely give him the contract he wants, he’s been with the Heat since he came into the league in 2003. It has been his empire for that entire time and it’s not worth tarnishing his legacy by pursuing another championship in the final stages of his career. But by doing that, he’d be left on a team that is destined for the lottery; a team that he could’ve been a part of for a lot more money; a team that has nothing to offer him but a few more years of guaranteed cash.
It’s sad to see an all-time great close their career on a low, and that’s what will happen to Wade if his sidekicks leave him behind in South Beach. We knew this day was going to come; it’s just sad that we might now be face-to-face with it. If they do all come back together, however, the Heat will undoubtably compete for another championship, and even if Wade isn’t a big part of it, it’s an ideal way to close the door on a highly successful career.
1 The Rockets were the fourth seed in the Western Conference last season and the addition of Bosh would solve a lot of their problems — they struggled defensively, and his ability to stretch the floor as a power forward would be a greatly welcomed addition. As for LeBron, any team he joins will immediately be catapulted into a championship contender. The question is, will he join a team that has more potential (Cleveland) or one that is more seasoned (Miami).