Dwyane Wade in Chicago is a Win for Player Empowerment


Dwyane Wade is a Chicago Bull. Removing his basketball fit from the picture, the 34-year-old’s arrival in Chicago is a win for one thing: player empowerment.

Dwyane Wade’s two-year deal with the Bulls might not help the franchise now or in the long run.

But, whether you are for or against his signing in Chicago, understand that the front office had very little to do with it.

The 12-time All-Star and native of nearby Robbins, Illinois could help the Bulls develop their young players and might even help them win some games. Beyond predicting wins and losses, Wade is in Chicago because the NBA is a player’s league.

Specifically, it’s a superstar’s league.

More from Bulls News

Since the first moments of the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” era, much has been said about Pat Riley’s role as the mastermind behind the alignment of stars in South Beach. It was Riley who helped bring the Heat their first NBA title in 2006 as head coach and president. It was Riley who created the allure of “La Familia.” He pulled the strings.

But the true don of Miami for the last 13 years was Wade, not Riley.

The former Marquette superstar and the surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer proved to be a real NBA power broker.

Wade decided to become a member of the Bulls when there were many other suitors. He will now help determine the course of the franchise over the next few years. The cities he turned down will feel the repercussions as well.

After a couple of summers spent playing a public game of chicken, Wade decided he would not kowtow to Riley. He refused the Godfather’s final offer because he could. Wade chose to wear No. 3 in Chicago and not Miami; just like he could have in the summer of 2010.

Riley was the one who pulled the trigger and drafted Wade as the fifth overall pick in 2003 behind LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. The Chicago native and Marquette guard took it from there.

Wade was rightfully named the 2006 NBA Finals MVP three years later. Shaquille O’Neal wanted out of Los Angeles badly and was perfectly content to play a subsidiary-Superman role behind “The Flash.” After the Heat bottomed out in 2008, Riley stepped down as head coach for the second time.

Two summers later, James and Chris Bosh joined the Heat and the rest is history.

The narrative often goes that Riley lured James and Bosh. Looking back, especially six years removed, Wade’s presence seems to be the real selling point.

It was Wade who shared a bigger than basketball bond with two other elite members of his 2003 draft class. It was Wade who was an All-Star guard in the prime of his career. He had already hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy that James and Bosh longed for.

If Riley was not in Miami, the Heat still head to four straight finals.

If Wade is not, they don’t.

If Gar Forman and John Paxson aren’t in Chicago, Wade still likely ends up there.

Players win games in the NBA, and superstars win championships. Riley forgot this, and clearly, Wade did not.

Wade took less money over the years in order to allow the Heat more freedom to build their roster. He never once was the highest paid player on this team.

Until now.

For the next two seasons he will be the Bulls’ oldest player and their most expensive.

He helped the Heat win three NBA championships and remain relevant nationally after James returned to Cleveland to fulfill his promise of a title. Wade was the attraction on South Beach, not Riley.

His arrival in Chicago was not orchestrated by the Bulls front office. Even the savviest group could not have planned for what took place. There was no pitch Forman and Paxson could have made to convince Wade to come to Chicago. It was his choice and his alone.

Wade’s arrival in Chicago is likely not about basketball. He will not win a championship at the United Center, unless he can channel his matchmaking prowess again.

He left a Heat team that was a game away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite his age, he had an excellent 2015-16 season and was even better in the playoffs. He decided the next two years of his NBA career will be in a Bulls uniform. Forman and Paxson were simply happy to oblige.

Next: SummerBulls Game No. 2: Cristiano Felicio leads way in win over Ben Simmons, Sixers

His two-year, $47 million deal might seem crazy. Heat fans might begrudge him. Bulls fans might lose their minds at this shortsighted move. But Wade had the power to make it happen, so he did.

The star said no to an offer he could refuse to accept a different one, if not better.

Riley might have gotten his wish, but will his team be able to land a coveted free agent next summer without the real power player in South Beach?

Wade made it happen in Miami.

He might not make anything happen in Chicago.

But, he’s a superstar, and as that, he is one of only a few who has the power to try.