Basketball

Ira Winderman: Dwyane Wade’s jersey collection busted, but not NBA

Dwyane Wade at the moment feels like the rest of us.

"All I know is my jersey swap collection is looking kinda bootleg since FA started," he posted on Twitter after Chris Paul became a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook joined the Houston Rockets. "In 20 years ain't no one believing those players played in those uniforms."

As part of his epic Miami Heat farewell tour, Wade spent the season exchanging jerseys with NBA icons and friends. Now many of those jerseys, if not most, already stand as dated, including the one of Paul with the Rockets, Jimmy Butler with the Philadelphia 76ers, Paul George with the Thunder, Kemba Walker with the Charlotte Hornets, Terry Rozier with the Boston Celtics, D'Angelo Russell with the Brooklyn Nets, Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans, Mike Conley with the Memphis Grizzlies, and on and on and on.

To some, it represents what is wrong with the NBA, that players don't stay in one place for the type of extended period Wade did in his 13-year initial Heat tenure, with shorter contracts further fueling wanderlust.

Commissioner Adam Silver recently touched on the subject during his State of the NBA comments in Las Vegas during summer league.

"We knew when we shortened contracts several years ago that the math would be the case that with shorter contracts you're going to have more free agency, more player movement in the summer," he said. "It's always a two-edged sword. On one hand, it creates a sense of renewal in a lot of markets. It gives teams an opportunity to rebuild. But the downside, of course, is for other teams, they potentially lose players."

That already has some seeing the NBA taking a harder line when negotiations reopen on a new collective-bargaining agreement.

But the genie is not going back into the bottle. In the NBA, the power rests with the players.

The takeaway from a league where LeBron James has now worn the jerseys of three teams, where Kawhi Leonard has worn that same amount in the past three years, and where Chris Paul could wind up in the color of three teams over the period of a single week, is that the NBA is moving more toward a soccer model.

Much to the consternation of coaches, it is not about the name on the front of the jersey, it is the name on the back.

So if you're a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, then you're a fan of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus or wherever the transfer whims take him next. Same thing with Neymar, from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

It's part of that game.

And it's now part of the NBA game.

It is the reason the NBA delays its schedule release until the offseason shuffling is mostly complete. With Westbrook and Butler, the Heat were anticipating a possible return to Christmas play. Now, at least at the moment, it is looking like a day off.

It's about the players, not who they play for.

Because of the nearly annual remix, the possibility of extended championship contention has been muted, Kevin Durant walking away from the Warriors after three seasons, Leonard from the Raptors after one.

The four-year run the Heat had with Wade, James and Chris Bosh might be as good as it gets, with LeBron back with the Cleveland Cavaliers for only four before he moved on again.

"I also think that with shorter contracts," Silver said, "it creates more often a sense of urgency with players. It creates greater incentives for performance. I think on balance it's working well. We didn't do it to create more interest in the offseason, but obviously it's created extraordinary media interest and fan interest."

And created an instant throwback jersey industry.

Just ask Dwyane Wade.

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