MIAMI » After 12 years with the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade needed a reminder of how much the franchise valued him.
Once he found out, any chance of him leaving vanished.
Wade accepted a $20 million, one-year deal on Thursday to stay with the Heat next season, ending his latest foray into free agency and wrapping up a weeks-long saga that had him seriously wondering about leaving for the first time. A pair of conversations, first with Heat CEO Nick Arison and then another with managing general partner Micky Arison, reminded Wade of what he meant to the team and from there it was a matter of just making numbers work.
"Sitting down with Nick, sitting down with Micky and having conversations with them that I’ve never had, that was big for me," Wade told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "I’ve never had a business conversation with one of them. … They got to show me how much they really wanted me to be here, how important it was for them that I continue to wear one jersey."
Without those conversations, Wade said, "I don’t think we would be at this point."
Per NBA rules, the Heat could not comment other than saying that they intend to enter into a contract with Wade once the NBA moratorium period ends. Wade cannot sign his new deal until July 9.
Wade said he was able to track through social media how much Heat fans wanted him to stay, which he said factored heavily into his decision-making process.
"I can’t tell you how much I appreciated what they all said," Wade said.
But ultimately, he needed to know the Heat felt the same way about their 33-year-old shooting guard. The 11-time All-Star averaged 21.5 points this past season, third-best among Eastern Conference players, and believes he remains one of the game’s top threats when healthy.
He found out the Heat still agree.
"Money-wise, I thought I did the best I could for myself and my family, and I also had the Heat in mind," Wade said. "Obviously it’s all about putting yourself in position to be able to compete. I love this organization. It crossed my mind to say, ‘If I’m going to handicap this organization by this contract, maybe the best situation is not to be there.’
"A one-year deal for $20 million, I could never look at that and roll my eyes," Wade said. "I am from Robbins, Illinois. Look at what I’ve been through in my life."
Wade could have made $16.1 million this season on the second year of a two-year deal, but opted out with hopes of getting a longer-term, more-lucrative contract.
For now, the more-lucrative part was enough to appease Miami’s all-time leading scorer.
"You go through so many emotions," Wade said. "It’s no secret that my goal was to sign a longer-term deal this summer. That’s what I was focused on. Once I realized that probably wasn’t the best thing for me right now, where everything is financially with the NBA and a lot of things coming up that we don’t even know about yet, a one-year deal isn’t a bad thing."
The decision ends a weeks-long, sometimes-contentious saga between the Heat and their franchise player. Wade was open to the idea of leaving Miami over a contract dispute, moreso than ever before.
From talk of an impasse between the sides several weeks before free agency even began, to social-media over analysis of Wade speaking of Miami in the past tense in his role as a television analyst during the NBA Finals and even the widespread perception that a recent image of his father wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers shirt was a sign of a looming Heat departure.
All the angst was for naught.
Wade considered other teams — the Los Angeles Lakers, in particular — but lure of staying home was ultimately too strong.
"This contract is a win-win for both Dwyane and the Heat," Wade’s agent, Henry Thomas, said. "Not only does Dwyane get to extend his Hall of Fame-worthy career with the only franchise for whom he has ever played, but he will have the flexibility next summer to sign an additional deal.
"And the Heat gets to keep their franchise cornerstone while having the ability to build a championship-contending roster."
Goran Dragic committed to a five-year deal on Wednesday. With Wade now back, the Heat free agents have decided their futures and now Miami will look to add pieces. Heat President Pat Riley was to meet late Thursday with free agent forward LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles, a longshot quest but one that shows that Miami is serious about winning now.
The 37-45 season this past year, one where Wade missed 20 games and Chris Bosh missed half the season because of a blood clot on his lung, is only going to go down as an aberration, the Heat hope.
"We’re going to be better. I know that," Wade said. "Knock on wood, you stay healthy, I think we’re a good team. I like our chances."