Dwyane Wade returns for his 13th season with the Miami Heat after a much publicized off-season. But he’s already working on tomorrow’s storyline.
It's a hot summer day and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade has once again woken up to a social media frenzy. This time the public outrage du jour surrounds his choice of outfits for a fashion spread in Esquire magazine. It’s a Versace jumpsuit and jacket that’s sort of an MC Hammer-meets-Darkwing Duck ensemble—one that only Wade could pull off, but on this day the Internet has lost its collective mind over his fashion choice.
“I’m glad I’m not that guy who cares about people’s reactions,” Wade tells Ocean Drive. “I’m always in some moment in fashion that’s controversial because I push the boundaries or I’m comfortable doing things that people might not understand. I get a kick out of people’s reactions. I go on Instagram. I like photos that I think are funny, because I’m in on the joke.”
A couple hours later Wade did just that, posting three of his favorite memes of his outfit in a collage on Instagram. It’s him making light of the criticism, but when you hear the real reason Wade chooses to take fashion risks, you might not laugh. “We are in a world today where freedom of expression is okay,” says Wade, who this summer was also an ambassador at CFDA’s New York Fashion Week: Men’s. “It’s okay to be who you are in today’s society. I tell my kids that we are in a different time, so anyone who is still back in the early 2000s, y’all need to catch up. I’m all about freedom of expression and doing what you are comfortable with. I just try to do what I’m comfortable with and if it’s pushing boundaries, if it’s pushing through a door, then I’m all for it.”
Blazer ($798) and pants ($325), Fabrice Tardieu. Sweater ($1,350) and glasses ($490), Dior Homme. Miami Design District, 161 NE 40th St., 305-571- 3576. Classic Fusion Tourbillon Vitrail, Hublot (price on request). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-1855. Sneakers, Saint Laurent ($645). The Webster, 1220 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-674-7899
Wade is constantly asked to defend his boundaries and his choices. When he decided to become a free agent instead of picking up his $16.1 million option with the Miami Heat this summer, many Miamians looked at a man who has been the heart and soul of the team for 12 straight years and asked ‘What gives?’ We heard him refer to the Miami Heat in the past tense on ESPN during the NBA Finals and we saw photos of his dad on the Internet wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers t-shirt and we begged him for an explanation. “Everything is overhyped—that’s part of social media as well,” he says. “There are a lot of things that people come out and say, and there’s only so many truths out there. When there’s 9, 12 different stories, you can’t believe them all.”
“I’m glad I’m not that guy that cares about people’s reactions.”
But facts are facts, and the truth is Wade is a 33-year-old future first ballot Hall of Famer who led the Miami Heat to three championships without once being the highest paid player on the team. We, as fans, sometimes think he should continue to sacrifice, but maybe we are the greedy ones, not him. Fans want Wade and Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside and we also want Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Gerald Green, and Amar’e Stoudemire—and, of course, we want to save money for Kevin Durant next year or Blake Griffin the following year. We are the ones who want it all, not Wade.
But if we consider Wade family here in Miami—and we do—then maybe it’s time we start trusting him the way his family does. “My wife supports me in any decision I make when it comes to my career, just like I do with her career,” he says of Gabrielle Union, whom he married in August 2014. “I think I make pretty good decisions when it comes to certain things. I’ve been able to be here 13 years, get to the finals five times with multiple teams and multiple roles, so I’ve made the tough decisions and I’ve made the easy decisions and they trust me to make them.”
It’s been a rollercoaster of a summer for Wade, who after agreeing to a one-year, $20 million deal with the Miami Heat, was in China promoting his Li-Ning shoe brand, Los Angeles walking red carpets at movie premieres, and the Bahamas riding a banana boat with his buddies, LeBron James and Chris Paul (Google it). “It’s a typical summer for me,” he says with a laugh. “Obviously during the season you try to focus as much as you can just on basketball itself, but I have to be dad, I have to be husband, I have to be businessman as well. Then I have to have a little time to vacation with the friends every now and again, too.”
Wade finds a way to do it all, which is why as soon as you ask about his post-basketball life he responds with: “I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t want to be tied down to one thing.”
That’s already the case in partnerships across the board with Li-Ning, Gatorade, Pepperidge Farm, Hublot, Mission Athletecare, Stance, The Tie Bar, Pahlmeyer Wine, and Get It Hoops. Plus his stint on ESPN had people wondering if more television work was in his future. “I do it because it’s something that I wanted to try and I had fun with it,” he says of his brief stint in broadcasting. “I’m a pro at my experience. I know how to talk about basketball in the way that I see it and I do it. If that’s something that someone likes and wants, then that’s a different conversation.”
Above all, Wade is a father first. Family time is key in the off-season, especially as his sons, Zaire and Zion, and his nephew, Dahveon, get older and need to be sat down for those important father-son talks. “My son and my nephew who I have custody of as well, are both 13 years old. They’re teenagers now, so they’re reaching a whole new venture in life,” says Wade, who is the New York Times bestselling author of A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger than Basketball. “I’ve been 13. I get it. When you get to a certain age, girls become the thing and that’s all you care about—girls and sports. I want them to be comfortable having those conversations with us. That’s not the easiest thing, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
It helps having Gabrielle Union in their lives. “She can give me a different perspective sometimes; support, other times,” he says. “My wife is very, very, very smart when it comes to everything in life. She’s been through a lot. She’s seen a lot. Her voice is wanted not only from me, but the kids as well. They have a mother and she’s not trying to replace their mother, but in our household, she’s the lady in charge and they respect her for it.”
“I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t want to be tied down to one thing.”
That’s especially true as the season starts and Wade finds his schedule more focused on basketball. “I always give credit to my family because they’re phenomenal,” he says. “They understand the sacrifice that is needed so I give them a lot of credit for that. We’re going to do our best. We’ve got Skype; we’ve got FaceTime. We’ve got planes. It can all work.”
As Wade enters his 13th season with the Miami Heat, it feels like it’s time for the rest of the world to understand that sacrifice as well. Each of those seasons, Wade didn’t just sacrifice his paycheck; he also put his body on the line for the team to win. “They told me when I was young, ‘listen, you only got so many falls in you, kid,’ and I knew that,” says Wade, who can be seen on Instagram trying all sorts of modern medicine from extreme cold therapy cryogenics to masks that mimic high altitudes to keep his body healthy. “My thing is you only got so much opportunity to play this game. While I had this thoroughbred body when I was young I was going to use it and play the way I wanted to play. Now, when your body is different, and you’re on the other side of 30, you have to be a little smarter with the way you play. I still attack the basket as much as anyone in the league but I do it a little smarter now. If you don’t adjust, you’ll be left behind.”
With that in mind, this season is about moving forward personally and as a team. “Last summer when we lost Lebron to his hometown, everything happened so fast we weren’t able to put the team together like we wanted,” he says. “Then last season we had every injury possible to every main player on our team, so we just had a tough year. But I thought our team did a great job this summer moving the pieces around. From the Miami Heat perspective inside, we always have expectations to be a great team. That doesn’t change. Once you build a winning culture you don’t just go back.”
Since he only signed a one-year deal, next summer we’ll be watching, waiting, and commenting on social media about his choices once again. “Hopefully I can sign a deal that I’m looking to sign and we can move on pretty fast,” he says. “It’s the part of it that fans and nobody really likes. Not everybody understands either. The business side of the sport comes into play every now and again for an athlete, so that’s just where I was at this summer and I’m glad everything worked itself out with the organization.”
Wade might leave. It happens. It will be Wade’s choice and he will move forward with that decision no matter what it is, because that’s what he does. He picks himself up, laughs at our silly comments, and comes back even stronger the next day. That’s why we love him in the first place, right? That’s why we hope he stays. That’s why we cross our fingers and look for him to sacrifice for us just one more time. But at the end of the day, whether he stays or goes, Miami will always be Wade County. That’s our choice.