Welcome to the summer of 2024.
All-Star free agent forward Zion Williamson, coming off his rookie contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and looking for a fresh start after three consecutive first-round playoff exits, is sitting inside a suite at the Spartanburg (South Carolina) Marriott, not far from where he played high school ball, ready to begin a half-dozen free-agent meetings with eager suitors.
The Heat – adjusting to life in the post-Pat Riley era (Riley will be 79 in 2024) – enters the hotel suite, with a contingent including CEO Nick Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra, GM Andy Elisburg, Alonzo Mourning and Shane Battier and drum roll, please – minority owners Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.
Wade reminds Williamson of the night (all the way back on March 5, 2019), when Duke honored him but Williamson wasn’t able to play.
Far-fetched? Not really. And let’s be real here: Who would be better at persuading Williamson — or any free agent — to join the Heat than Wade?
Whether Wade’s publicly stated interest in becoming involved in Heat ownership becomes reality hinges in large part on owner Micky Arison’s receptiveness to the idea and willingness to empower Wade to the point where has a significant role (along with others) in personnel decisions. The financial component for a minority stake would need to be worked out, too.
Wade is very serious about this ownership thing, and he says the Heat will get first crack. It would need to be a minority role in Miami, because the Arison family has shown no interest in selling.
I asked Wade on Tuesday if having input in personnel decisions is one of the factors that has made him interested in being an owner.
“Yeah, definitely is,” Wade said. “You want to learn that side. You want to be a continued part of helping the game grow. For me, I would love to be a continued part of helping this organization grow.”
And he doesn’t need to have final say on personnel decisions?
“No, not yet,” he said. “I don’t want that pressure.”
So would he be OK being part of group that makes player personnel decisions?
“Definitely,” he said. “I want to be a part of it, I want to be part of it all. I want to be in the war room. I want to be in everything. For one, to learn how the process goes and see if I can help with the next generation, help see talent, be able to help talent grow and all those things.”
Would it be OK being a minority owner, knowing that would likely be the case with the Heat?
“Right now, you just want to get your feet wet,” he said. “I’m definitely open to seeing what the possibilities are and go from there.”
Wade said he “definitely would love to” talk to Charlotte Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan about what to know about becoming an NBA owner.
“I will reach out to MJ,” he said. And “I have a relationship with [Lakers president of basketball operations] Magic Johnson and reach out to him.”
Teammates and close friends Wade and Udonis Haslem have talked casually during the past year about owning a team.
“I would love for it to be the Heat but we haven’t been specific about a team,” Haslem said. “Our conversations have been more about owning a team, not owning this team.
“That would be amazing. I would never thought I would be owning Subways, Starbucks and Einsteins, so who’s to say that would be out of my cards? It’s definitely possible.”
▪ Haslem isn’t particularly interested in coaching but “personnel is something I’ve got a good feel for — it could be a possibility or I could be a Swiss Army knife and do a bunch of different things.”
Whereas Wade plans to retire after this season, Haslem has said he’s leaning toward playing one more season.