We all want to feel wanted. This is human nature to its core. It sucks in a lot of ways, because it keep us from just doing what is in our best interest. In adulthood, many of us have what we need at the bottom and middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs–food, shelter, water, friends, and the love of another. This should be enough. It should definitely be enough for Dwyane Wade: 3 time NBA champion, best friends with Lebron, a multimillionaire with a multimillion dollar home in a city that worships him, married to Gabrielle Union–the beautiful cheerleader from the black school in Bring It On, and has about two to three good years left in his basketball career.
Wade has the bottom needs of Maslow’s hierarchy solidified, but like almost all human beings, he shoots for higher emotional quality like self-esteem–near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.
When the Miami Heat offered him a 2-year deal with a 50% pay cut to play for ten million a year instead of his usual ten million, it was his pride more than his pocketbook that got hurt.
As evolved primates with tribal roots, there is nothing worse than feeling like your tribe no longer values you. This is in our guts; evolution through Natural Selection has programmed us to lose self-esteem when rejected by the Tribe for being perceived with lower value.
This is why a multimillionaire with the perfect life is angry about getting paid 10 million dollars.
In sports, as in any form of entertainment, what you get paid is the sign of your value. There is a reason why agents are in every field of entertainment, that transaction of perceived value can get messy and tempestuous and teams, publishers, corporations, and studios can use emotional leverage to make entertainers act against their interest. An agent’s job is to make sure the player gets compensated what they feel they are worth.
Is Dwyane Wade still worth the money he wants? He might not be, but a competitor on his level has to perceive himself to be one of the best and would be angered if his team, his tribe, no longer feels the same way about him.
The self-help axiom that you can’t buy self-esteem is false in this case. A team offering him twenty million is telling him he is still a star and deserves to be paid by one. It might even be best short-term and long-term to take the pay cut, stay in his nine million dollar home in Miami, and solidify his Heat legacy that will lead to endorsement deals for the rest of his life, but that need to be valued and perceived as great could be worth more to him than any actual dollars or needs.
Christoph Paul is an award-winning humor writer and co-publisher of New English Press. His most recent books are Slasher Camp for Nerd Dorks and Great White House 2: Billary Bites Back. Find him on Twitter @Christophpaul_ and Christophpaulauthor.com.