The "Lifer" Question

What is a team "Lifer?" The Miami Heat might ask themselves the same this Summer.

(What does it mean to care for something? Does it mean to put aside your own self interests in pursuit of what you care about? Or does it mean less that that? Both? In this article, I’m going to asking a lot questions, some of which have unspoken answers.)

This year Dwyane Wade made (and earned) $20 million. And this next season, the 2016–2017 NBA season, Wade isn’t going to be keen on taking any type of haircut. Why should he? He’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s won three rings and, in Game 6 of Round 1 of this postseason, he won his team a playoff game with pure guts and confidence. He’s still got it. On top of that, Wade is?—?knock on wood, Heat fans?—?a Miami Heat lifer. 

And that begs the question: What is a “Lifer”? Does that term define a player that stays with their team until they retire, trying win where they are, while raking in all the money they can? Or, does it define a player that does whatever they can to help their respective franchise succeed, even if it means sacrificing for the greater good of their team? For some, it is the former, and for others, it is the latter. I’m sure we can all conjure up few examples of players who’ve been less team-friendly, and some who’ve been extremely kind to their clubs?—?one specifically, Dirk Nowitzki. 

Now, Nowitzki is a player that should make Heat fans wince, but, even more painful, make them laugh, too. Nowitzki is arguably the most likable player in the league; and that’s not just because of his man-boyish charm and high arcing daggers. 

According to, on his divinely kind 3-year $25 million contract (good until 2017), in the 2015–2016 NBA season, the Germantor only used up 11.9 percent of the Dallas Mavericks’ cap space. But why would a championship winning, league (2007) and Finals MVP (2011) take home less than Chandler Parsons (21.95 percent of the Mavs’ 2015 cap) and Wesley Matthews (23.44 percent of the Mavs’ 2015 cap), his own teammates?

Because Nowitzki only has one thing on his mind. Winning. Dirk has turned down more money than most people could even dream of. He’s turned down $95-plus million dollar MAX contracts from other teams to stay and create and maintain a winning culture in Dallas. 

Like Wade and so many other superstars, Dirk has earned max money, he just hasn’t taken it. In a sport that values teamwork as much anything else, Dirk has proven the ultimate and ideal team player, allowing his team to stay competitive and flexible with his modest contracts. But what Dirk doesn’t get in cold hard cash he makes with front office weight.

Cited from Dallas’ Star-Telegram and KTCK-The Ticket radio, “We’re going to sit with Mark [Cuban] and Donnie [Nelson] over the next few weeks and figure out how to improve this franchise again,” said Nowitzki on this Summer’s blue print.

And while the might sound like run of the mill the best player has the owners ear stuff, it’s little more. When someone does you a favor, like taking a lot less money for your (and their) benefit, you’re more inclined to return the favor in the future. It’s in Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s interest to keep Dirk happy and heard?—?anything to keep Dirk Nowitzki a Dallas Mavericks “Lifer.”

So that brings to the table another question: Why aren’t more superstars like Dirk? We always here players preach winning over everything, though their actions often convey that that’s not always true. 

Dwyane Wade took up 28.57 percent of the Heat’s cap space this season. Almost triple that of Dirk’s 2015 cap hold. No one should knock Wade for taking more money. He deserves it. He’s earned it, as have players like Dirk. But there’s money scarcity in South Beach this Summer and only six of Miami’s 15-member roster is on the books for next season. If the Heat plan on keep Whiteside, they’re going to have to ante up somewhere around $22 million, and most likely a similar figure for Wade. The Heat have $49,757,947 on the books for the 2016–2017 NBA season, plus, the roughly $40-plus million Wade and Whiteside will demand. Right there, that’s about $90 million; and that’s before the Heat even think about re-signing Luol Deng, Joe Johnson or anyone else. This season’s salary cap will be around $92 million. You can do the math, it’s going to be tight. Expect to see the phrase “dipping into the luxury tax” in the Miami Heat’s future. 

So with no “haircuts” in Wade’s future, it makes the sports term “Lifer” a little muddier than players like Dirk Nowitzki would believe us to think. Do players like Dirk care more about their franchises?—?care more about winning? Most would argue no, but actions might tell otherwise. 



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