After 13 years, after 5 NBA Finals appearances, 3 titles and NBA Finals MVP, Dwyane Wade left Miami Heat and signed for Chicago Bulls.
The greatest player in Heat history, he has taken discounts for years. And when he wanted to have a real deal in the next two years, Pat Riley had a different vision about Miami Heat.
Dwyane Wade shares story of Heat's disrespect and why he left Miami for the Bulls.
He thought he will be with Miami Heat forever, but...
“I thought it was an opportunity I would be there forever, but s--t happens,” Wade said in an exclusive interview with CSNChicago.com after the Bulls’ 112-80 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night “And when s--t happens, you gotta be prepared to (move on). I found out very quickly that this is a business.”
“I've kept in touch from everybody there besides Pat. From the owners on down,” Wade said. “It's nothing but respect, and I have no hard feelings. I understand what Pat is, he's a competitor. I've been knowing him for 13 years so I expect no different.
“People might not believe me, but I have no hard feelings toward Pat. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, everything happens for a reason, so I'm fine.”
Keeping that salary-cap space open for two max deals meant Wade had to twist in the wind a bit while the Heat tried to reload for a run at former mate LeBron James in the East.
“Definitely,” said Wade when asked if he felt a certain way about where he fit on the pecking order. “The biggest thing, is all about the way you communicate. I understand this business just as good as anybody. But it's a way, someone like me, a way you communicate what you're trying to do, and how you're gonna do it and what it looks like for me.”
The common courtesy and respect he felt he was due by the franchise — completely different from special treatment, he’s intimated on multiple occasions — went out the window, at least long enough for Wade to seriously explore other options.
“That's it. When you get respect, that's what you get back,” Wade said. “I've given nothing but respect. I feel like a lot of things in this world and this league are mishandled from the notion of communication. That's it.
“At the end of the day, I talked to those guys and I told them, 'It's free agency. I understand y'all have a job to do, and I have a job to do as well.' I let it be known I was going to be a free agent and I wasn't waiting by the phone for them to call me.”
But, Pat Riley had a different vision about Miami Heat.
“And I did my homework because I understand Hassan was a priority, which he should've been,” Wade said. “I understood that they were trying to go out and get KD, because that's something they wanted to do. But I had to look out for myself and put myself in a situation that I wanted to be in, if things didn't work out the way I wanted them to work out and they didn't.”
It’s not a stretch to say Wade made the biggest salary sacrifices in the history of basketball, turning down tens of millions of dollars in two contracts to help the Heat facilitate signings of James and Chris Bosh in 2010 while also keeping longtime teammate Udonis Haslem.
“You do things because you want to do them. All those things I did to stay in Miami was because I wanted to do them,” Wade said. “When I made the sacrifice, when I could've gotten $127 million and I took $110 million to make sure LeBron and Chris (come) but I also have UD (Haslem) stay, those were things I wanted to do. I didn't want to be in Miami and enjoy the success and not have UD there.”
Chicago is his hometown, and it wasn't all about money.
“As a player, you know the saying, ‘all money ain't good money?’ Sometimes you make a decision to put yourself in a great situation more so than going to get the dollar,” Wade said. “I've been blessed to have a lot of endorsement money as well, and I've been able to make money up — you can't make money up, but I've been able to keep afloat (laughs).”
And unprompted, Wade addresses what he believes is the biggest misconception of the entire ordeal.
“So I never ...” Wade started, his eyes darting from his clothes to make strong eye contact. “There's this notion out there that I expected stuff on the back end. No, I've always wanted as a player what I was worth.”