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In a sports world lacking loyalty, what did Dwyane Wade expect?

(Photo by David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

The topic today, class, is whether loyalty exists in professional sports. If I had to reduce the subject to a question, it would be, “What, are you nuts?”

The Heat “lowballed’’ Dwyane Wade with a two-year contract worth $40 million – this after he had taken less money over the years so Miami could lure free agents such as LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Heat’s offer is why he became a Bull, recently agreeing to a two-year, $47.5 million contract.

He’s upset with the Heat, with whom he spent 13 seasons and won three NBA championships. You can understand his anger and disappointment. He helped the team accomplish a lot, and he put a lot of butts in seats.

But it’s a little harder to understand why he would have any expectation of loyalty from a billionaire owner used to winning at business or a team president trying to build the best roster he can. Has he been paying any attention during his professional life?

These people want to make money. If they think a player can help them win (make money), they will give him more money. If they don’t think he can help them win (make money), they will look right through him. The Heat offered Wade enough cash to sort of make it look like they wanted him but not enough to stop him from storming off in a huff.

Surely he noticed over the years that, when he chose to pass up better financial opportunities elsewhere, other players around the league had no problem bolting their teams for more money. The real problem isn’t that loyalty is lacking. It’s that the word is still in our sports dictionary, when almost everything in our experience tells that there is no such thing as fealty.

Drilling a bit deeper, did Wade take smaller contracts over the years because he wanted to help the Heat organization and the fans? Or did he do it because he wanted to win NBA titles? Maybe those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Maybe they’re all rolled up into the same complicated thing we call professional sports. But Wade wasn’t just passing on more money out of the goodness of his heart. There was something in it for him – championships. And he got them. And from those championships, he derived all sorts of rewards, including endorsements.

People chase different things – money, power, fame, excellence, etc. – but they’re always in pursuit of something. Wade’s thing was NBA titles. Because of it, the greater good was served. Miami won titles, and the city celebrated. His mistake was assuming that the Heat would eventually reward him with a huge payday. That they didn’t was almost predictable.

Most of us would agree – and I’m hoping Wade would, too – that he has made more than enough money as a basketball player, whether through his Heat contracts or his endorsements. He needs more money like you need more air. He’ll say that money isn’t the issue, and it might not be, unless you think $47.5 million can change your life in ways that $40 million can’t. The issue, Wade might say, is respect.

Owners respect you in the measure that you can help them make money. Wade should know that. Heat owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley almost surely look upon Wade as a 34-year-old shooting guard whose career is winding down. Does that sound like someone who is going to win them an NBA title? Does that sound like someone who will make them more money?

When Hollywood makes sports movies, the owner often is portrayed as coldhearted, “Major League’’ being but one example. Why? Because movies are built on clichés, and every cliché has a little bit of truth in it. Now Wade knows what the film industry has hit us over the head with forever: Professional sports owner are in it for the cash.

If fans were truly upset about a lack of loyalty shown by teams or athletes, they would boycott games. How often have you seen that happen? Just about never. Fans are extremely loyal to their teams. It might be the only place you’ll find anything resembling loyalty. Miami fans will move on from Wade.

On a very basic human level, of course the Heat should have been more appreciative of what he had done for the franchise. But that’s just it: Don’t think flesh and blood. Thinks dollars and cents.