5 Things the Common Fan Doesn't Understand About Dwyane Wade
You may know about Dwyane Wade's difficult childhood, shuttled between his divorced parents—with his mother dealing with drug addiction—and his sister Tragil playing a large role in raising him.
You may know that he was a late bloomer in high school in the shadow of his older brother Demetris, and that, after he was ineligible as a freshman, he emerged as a college star for Marquette University.
You may know all about the ups (2006 NBA MVP, three championships, nine All-Star games) and downs (shoulder and knee injuries) that he's suffered during his NBA career since the Miami Heat drafted him No. 5 overall in 2003.
You may know about his difficult divorce and about his high-profile current relationship with actress Gabrielle Union.
You may know about his nicknames, from D-Wade to Flash to WoW (which, thankfully, hasn't stuck) and now to the moniker he gave himself after winning his third championship.
"My name is Three, not Dwyane," he said to open his press conference following the Game 7 victory.
You may not know, however, that he doesn't eat seafood.
That he doesn't drink alcohol.
That he doesn't dance all that well, which is why a cameo in a Cameron Diaz movie was so stressful.
That he has a shoe addiction.
That he is scared of snakes and, somewhat less rationally, high-flying birds.
Here are five more facts about the guy who calls himself Three:
(All quotes for this piece were collected over the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post.)
5. He Is Unusually Active in Building a Brand
Their star partnership didn't last all that long and didn't end on the most positive terms.
Still, Dwyane Wade got something from his time as a Miami Heat teammate of Shaquille O'Neal.
As he wrote in his book, A Father First: How My Life Become Bigger than Basketball:
Shaq also opened my eyes to another side of the NBA—to the obvious and more hidden opportunities in endorsements, of course, as well as to the concept of being not just an athlete, but also a brand, and entertainer and a public figure with the privilege of using those fifteen minutes of fame to do some good.
At All-Star Weekend in 2007, Wade held his first Brand Wade Summit, assembling his sponsors in one spot so they could align their interests and brainstorm opportunities. Over the years, he has continued to hold these annual gatherings, taking copious notes and making suggestions.
"A lot of times, those sort of events are just the athlete's [marketing] team," his manager, Lisa Joseph Metelus, said after the 2011 event. "Dwyane is part of every minute."
Over the years, Wade has served as a spokesman for cell phones (T-Mobile), watches (Hublot), office supplies (Staples), energy drinks (Gatorade) and, of course, shoes, from Converse to Jordan Brand to stepping out and signing a multi-year contract to become the face of the largest Chinese sportswear brand, Li Ning, and its "Way of Wade" line.
He remains vigilant and active when it comes to those products. He puts as much thought into all of it as he does to his occasionally wacky wardrobe.
For instance, while in China, he responded to questions about the shoes on Twitter.
One of his more 4.1 million followers, @DillyWadeBreezy, wrote that he was "getting annoyed" with Li Ning "for not allowing American fans to buy his shoes."
To which Wade replied, "Roger tht."
4. He Wants to Go Beyond Basketball
Dwyane Wade keeps a journal, and he majored in broadcasting at Marquette University.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise when the Miami Heat star chose to publish a book, A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball, and even more of one when he was so open about his challenging upbringing, as well as his struggle to secure custody of his two sons, Zaire and Zion.
Wade, after all, came to the NBA as an admittedly shy person—someone who, about anything other than basketball, didn't have all that much to say. He has since stepped out a bit more each year, making his voice heard on a variety of topics.
In his first couple of seasons, it wasn't clear he had this in him.
He was one of the most outspoken NBA players during the 2011 lockout, especially on Twitter, sometimes quite seriously (questioning the NBA's stated desire for competitive balance) and sometimes with a joke ("I'm available for all bar and bat mitzvah and weddings....but my specialty is balloon animals").
As the killing of Sanford, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was just starting to get attention (and had become a major cause of his girlfriend Gabrielle Union), he posted an old photo of himself in a hoodie and helped organize the Miami Heat's group hoodie photo. And, after George Zimmerman was ruled not guilty, Wade posted this:
"Wow! Stunned! Saddened as a father! Some1 make sense of this verdict for me right now please! Don't worry I'll wait.. How do I explain this to my young boys?"
All the while, he has continued his charity work in his actual, and adopted, hometowns. The fans voted him the winner of the 2012-13 Community Assist Award.
The Wade's World Foundation supports health and fatherhood programs in Chicago, South Florida and Milwaukee. He has even participated in a national online webcast with bestselling author James Patterson to promote literacy among youth.
Someday, they may read his book.
3. His Game Has Evolved, If Not the Way Some Want
After a poor performance in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA finals for the Miami Heat against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dwyane Wade was asked whether he was the same guy he'd been in 2006, when he dominated the Dallas Mavericks.
"From 2006?! I was 24. Totally different. Six years ago, man. I'm not that athletic, I'll tell you that, as I was in '06, but I still have something in me, I still have some left in me. I wish it was possible to stay at that same athleticism as I was at 24, but that's not possible."
Wade has since aged another year, and with each one that passes, there will be more questions about whether he can continue to play an attacking style. And there will be more calls for him to "evolve," which is code for becoming a better jump-shooter.
But there isn't just one way for an NBA player to adjust and grow—which, though it sometimes goes unnoticed, Wade has done offensively.
The Miami Heat star has spoken of figuring out a way that he could still be productive, even with the ball in his hands less, in a way "that was going to keep me happy” while also bettering the team.
His coach, Erik Spoelstra, was Wade's personal assistant when Wade first came in the league and says the guard is “a much more diverse and versatile scorer now,” better on pick-and-rolls, better in the post, and much better cutting off the ball than in his earlier days.
Yes, his free throws are way down. But his shooting efficiency is still up; he shot a career-best 52.1 percent during the 2012-13 season, even while dealing with knee issues.
Wade summed it up this spring:
“If my next evolution is hitting outside threes, if I’m out there doing that, that’s not what is best for the team. Best for our team is when me and LeBron [James], who pull triggers, who are the attackers on this team, are doing that, and we got guys who are going to live out here and shoot that.”
This has been an extension of what he did as a standout sixth man in the 2008 Olympics.
“So my evolution came on my terms and my way; that’s the way I’ve always done things. I’m an attacker by nature. There’s times where I’m in the corner, and I’m like, ‘Ooh, swing it to me, I’m about to shoot this 3,’ and I get it and I drive it to the hole. It’s just who I am; it’s in my DNA.
"Until the day they tap me on my shoulder, and say, hey, it’s time for you to get out of here, I think I’m going to be an attacker. When I can’t attack no more, then it’s time for me to go."
And he'll need to evolve into something other than a basketball player.
2. He Hears the Critics, Even If He Does Not Heed Them
By 2008, many of the memories of Dwyane Wade's first championship had faded.
On top of the NBA in 2006, Wade had suffered through serious shoulder and knee injuries, and the Miami Heat had slipped to the bottom of the NBA standings, winning just 15 games in 2007-08.
That's when Converse released a commercial, with Wade waking up to insults from sports radio hosts, including some (like he had been a bad draft pick for Miami) that no sane person had ever uttered.
"Dwyane Wade's Belief is Stronger Than Your Doubt."
That proved true in 2008-09, which may have been Wade's best statistically, and it has proved true again and again since, whether in the 2012 second round against the Indiana Pacers or the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Wade has this habit of rallying when the skeptics are circling.
As Wade said just prior to the 2013 All-Star break:
“A lot of people like to throw dirt on me. I’ve been getting dirt thrown on me for a little while now, every time I have a bad stretch, that it’s over for me. But people can continue to do that, because I’m not going nowhere. As long as I’m healthy, as long as I’m able to play this game feeling good. I’ve still got a lot, and I’m still one of the best to do it."
So yes, he hears it, all of it, no matter how he sometimes insists that he has stopped watching ESPN or any of the other sports outlets.
And some of it clearly irritates him, such as when he's called a dirty player ("I'm far from being a dirty player," he tweeted after getting suspended for kicking Charlotte Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions) or when analysts fail to appreciate the adjustments and sacrifices that he's made to accommodate the additions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh—all, he says, in the name of winning.
He just may be better able to shrug it off now with three rings in 10 NBA seasons. And he might leave it to his friends to fight back.
Wade was slow out of the gate during the 2012-13 season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, and some, including Charles Barkley, spoke of his athletic decline. Then Wade started to get a flow in early December.
What did that mean?
This was James's response:
“It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up. The man’s shooting like 80 percent from the floor the last couple of games. Come on, man. That’s like crazy, right? Seriously. I mean, that’s why he is who he is. That’s unbelievable.”
After drawing laughter with the Barkley quip, James continued, “I’m glad somebody finally got off me for a change. But D-Wade is a motivated guy. All competitors get motivated when somebody says something about ’em. He doesn’t pay much attention to it. He’s heard it, I know he has. And when you have two games like that, you kind of put it to rest.”
Until the doubts arise again.
1. Legacy Has Begun to Matter to Him
The more Ws he accumulates, the more that Dwyane Wade has used the L word:
During a one-on-one interview prior to his eighth All-Star appearance, the Miami Heat guard spoke of what he had accomplished and what that might mean in the future.
“I do know now that I have this legacy,” Wade said.
That wasn't true when he turned pro.
“I was just thinking about playing the game of basketball, and those things came, God bless it. So right now, I know that I’m in the midst of adding to my legacy. I feel like I’ve got a lot to add, I’ve got a lot still left to do. It’s changed a little bit, from probably the path it was on, but I just moved across the street, I didn’t move off the block.”
After he won his third championship, he stayed on that theme, saying that he wanted this title "for the legacy that I'm building now. Selfishly, I wanted to win this for myself."
Wade has spoken honestly about how he knows that most NBA observers don't classify him as a top-five player anymore. And yet Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson has called Wade the third-best 2-guard in NBA history, behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Even after dips in his scoring average the past two seasons, he still ranks 15th all time at 24.7. That ranks him third in history among players shorter than 6'5", behind Jerry West and Allen Iverson.
And Wade has a higher shooting percentage than either.
His proficiency and efficiency, considering his height deficiency, is virtually unprecedented. That's why, when Wade calls himself "underappreciated," as he has on occasion, it's hard to argue.
“I always say that when I retire, maybe people will give me more credit,” Wade said.
Certainly they will on the day he takes his place in the Hall of Fame.