Casual basketball fans may think of Dwyane Wade as the anchor that lured Chris Bosh and LeBron James to South Beach, with promises of a championship and a dynasty to be built. This past June, Wade and company realized their dream in just their second season, bringing an NBA title back to American Airlines Arena for the Miami Heat. Wade, the elder statesman, the seasoned veteran, got to realize his dream of a title for the second time, this one with James leading the way instead of Shaquille O’Neal. The offseason should be time to kick back, relax and boast a bit.
Not for the Chicago native. While offseason surgery curtailed another shot at Olympic gold, it did not slow the 30 year old, who recently embarked on a tour promoting his first book, “Dwyane Wade, A Father First” (with Mim Eichler Rivas). The book is not a boastful tale of life on the beach in Miami and all the trappings that come with it. Rather it is a poigniant, insightful, self examination of a young, maturing man and his struggles to overcome a messy divorce and the battles to obtain custody and raise his young sons. Zaire and Zion. The book gives fans a candid and frank look into the behind the scenes world of the superstar and the efforts he has taken to be a role model, as well as introducing readers to those who influenced him positively and negatively along the way. “My first check as a professional was more than my father made in probably two years, it was very humbling,” Wade said during a Wednesday gathering for media types and executives at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. “It was great to have and sure I spent it, but it started me thinking as well about the role model I was going to be and the responsibility I had.”
It is that responsibility, to young players, to his teammates, to the game and to his family, that came out clearly during the hour long discussion hosted by Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel. Wade touched on the messiness of the divorce from his now ex-wife Siovaughn Funches-Wade and the three year custody battle that remains the longest in the history of Illinois’ Cook County. He also talked about fiscal responsibility and the legacy he would like to leave in the sport when retirement comes, as well as the lessons he has learned as a man and a father through the off-court struggles he has had with his personal life. “Having your life play out in public and having to fight for your kids, you see the pain that everyone is going through and hope that you are doing the right thing for them,” he added.
Wade also talked at length about the similarities his personal life had with his upbringing, one that came from a home of divorce, with a father (Dwyane Wade Sr.) who was a strict disciplinarian (something he is not entirely emulating with his sons). ‘My father was very tough, it was his way and there was no arguing,” he added. “I learned alot from how he treated me, and our relationship is something we are still working on.” Even more so, Wade touched on the support his mother showed in raising he and his siblings in a tough Chicago neighborhood, and how she helped inspire him to new levels of greatness that he has achieved both on and off the court, as a leader in the community and as a devoted and committed father.
The discussion also shed light on Wade’s professional career, from his difficult decision during free agency to stay with Miami over his beloved Bulls to the realization of the vitriol that can come from faithful fans in places like Cleveland that were spurned by his superstar teammate James “To look in someone’s face and see real hatred, that was a wakeup call,” he said about Miami’s first trip back to Cleveland following “The Decision.” The former Marquette star was also open about his indecision about James choice “I had no idea if it (pairing with Wade and Bosh) would work,” as well as his underestimating what it would take to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Miami “I never thought how hard it would be to win the title again,” he added.
All in all the discussion, like the book, was a good look inside the soul and spirit of one of the NBA’s most marketable stars, in an era when fans want access but may be thwarted by anything other than a club sighting or a random twitter boast. A good reflection on a mature superstar who has achieved a great deal on the court but who feels his best work as a father, businessman and mentor, is still to come.