By Kelvin Lattimore
Shortly after the NBA Champion is crowned, the drama begins… free agency.
The NBA draft quickly follows the NBA playoffs and teams have a chance to re-shape their team for the future. However, over the years, the tide has turned and NBA free agency has become more popular than the draft. After contracts end and NBA stars are free to sign with a team of their choosing, the frenzy begins. We all remember in 2010 when LeBron James aired primetime on live television that he was leaving Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. The criticism ranged from the manner in which he made his decision and the fact that he even left Cleveland.
This summer superstars Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade headlined the free agent talks and the hype was building each day as members of the media, team officials, and fans speculated where the two might land.
Kevin Durant was facing a tough decision himself as he was torn between allegiance to the team that drafted him 2007 or the chance to enhance his career and legacy and chase the championship. Durant has a laundry list of awards and accolades including 2008 Rookie of the Year, 2014 MVP, and seven time NBA All star selections, but no championship ring.
Under the leadership of Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder had positive season results and deep playoff runs. The Thunder took advantage of the fourth seed in the shortened 2011-2012 season due to the lockout by making it all the way to the NBA finals before losing to “The Big 3” and the Miami Heat. Despite that, the Thunder had the two-headed monster threat of Russell Westbrook and Durant for years to come. After injury plagued seasons and playoff exits, the looming question remained would Durant stay when his contract was up. Fans hoped that Durant would stay at least one more year, as point guard Russell Westbrook would be a free agent following the 2016-2017 season.
After blowing a 3-1 series lead to the reigning NBA Champions of Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, many wondered if that would be the last time Durant would put on the Thunder jersey. Durant made his final decision after meeting with several teams in the offseason to become a member of the Golden State Warriors powerhouse. Durant’s contract was a two-year deal worth $54,274,505. Durant will now play alongside two-time league MVP Stephen Curry, 3 point shooting extraordinaire Klay Thompson, the versatile Draymond Green and 2015-2016 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. The Warriors already hold the NBA record for most wins in an NBA season with 73 and with the addition of Durant, it seems as though the Warriors could break their own record.
As an unrestricted free agent Durant has the right to choose whatever team he feels gives him the best opportunity to win a title. While most fans and media pundits criticize Durant for taking a foreseeable easy road to a championship, Durant has clearly earned the right to be happy and do what he has to do for his personal legacy. As LeBron James did in 2010, Durant is focusing on the one thing that all players play for…. to be a CHAMPION.
The case of Dwayne Wade is much different. He is a three-time NBA Champion and was loyal in his service to the Miami Heat. After taking several loyalty discounts when it came to new contracts, Wade was looking to get paid in full this time around. The leadership that Wade brings will be far more missed than his physical abilities.
In my personal opinion, any team in the NBA would love to have Wade on its roster. At age 34 Wade is headed to his hometown of Chicago to play for the Bulls. Wade is now considered a seasoned veteran and like most NBA superstars, Wade has plenty of awards. After all the fame and notoriety there are two things left to play for … love of the game and respect.
At age 34, Wade believes he has some good years left to compete and contribute on an NBA roster. Wade has never had a problem playing alongside other stars as the leader to win a championship. Wade has joined forces with the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, and Shaquille O’Neal. Most fans would think the next logical move would be to get an acceptable deal. The Miami front office seemingly had other plans as a deal to sign starting center Hassan Whiteside was a bit higher on the priority list as his contract went from $980,000 to $98,000,000. The Heat also had plans of signing Durant.
Where does all this leave Wade? One would think left at the end of table to receive leftovers yet again. Wade decided that enough was enough and if his credit was not good enough to stay in South Beach then surely there is a team that would love to have his talent. Wade took meetings with Cleveland and Denver before deciding on the Windy City. Wade signed a two-year deal for $47,500,000.
This hometown reunion is more than a prodigal son returning to his hometown. It is a story of how not to give up on what you love even when some believe there is nothing left in the tank. The future of the Miami Heat is uncertain, but for Dwayne Wade, his future is certainly in his hands.