Last week, Dwyane Wade accepted a buyout from Chicago that saw him take less money than he would’ve made otherwise. In an era of sports and politics filled with megalomania and arrogance, Wade chose his best friend and the comfort that relationship brings—once again—over money; and it was a whole lot of it.
This, of course, brought about a chorus of criticism. From those in Chicago that said Wade never lived up to his contract despite him simply taking what the market offered and ultimately giving them a mulligan by opting out of the mutually agreed terms. To those in Miami that wanted Wade to “come back home” despite having to cede a starting spot and accept a role on a team, that by all accounts, would be happy just reaching the playoffs.
Since the beginning of their relationship, Wade and James identified as kindred spirits and to this day have arguably become American sports’ most popular friends. James’ first public comments on the Wade acquisition echoed these sentiments.
“I’m happy that we were able to keep him away from everybody else. It’s a guy, come on, man, this is like one of my best friends. It’s kind of like when you start school and you walk into the classroom and you’re not quite sure who your classmates are and when you walk in there and one of your best friends is in there, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun. It’s going to be a good class.’ That’s the type of feeling I got.”
Within this, we have a Hall of Famer in Wade and arguably one of the greatest players of all time in Lebron choosing friendship over the feelings and interest of others—how dare they. But perhaps it’s the fact that these two continue to strip away at the NBA and an American sports construct that has lasted for generations in which superstars hold loyalty to their bosses over even their own best interests. In what other occupation other than American sports is this even remotely acceptable? If an accountant in Los Angeles wants to work with his best friend in a city left behind by neoliberal politics and globalization do we chastise him for not blazing his own trail?
Granted, this has always said more about the average American sports fan and the tribalism the culture breeds than the grit and heart of the superstars we so readily criticize. However, what is the tipping point? Is there one? It seems to be that these two men so greatly exemplify what we so often and emphatically ask from our sport stars (undeniable and realized talent, wonderful fathers and husbands, philanthropists, not criminals) that there HAS to be something to castigate—and what they’ve done by taking their future and lives into their own hands, to play with their best friend, just doesn’t sit right with us.