Dwyane Wade started this NBA season teamed up with LeBron James, hoping to help lead the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. He’ll finish it in a far different place, where he feels right at home.
On February 8th, Wade was traded to Miami for a protected second-round pick, perhaps appropriate value for a 36-year old on an expiring contract, but an incredible bargain for a Miami icon whose worth extends way beyond the court. Yes, barring a late-season collapse he’ll likely lead the Heat to a playoff berth, but more importantly he gets to re-insert himself into a Miami community that has missed him these past couple of years.
Just yesterday he made an appearance at Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and administrators were killed by a mass shooter less than a week after the trade. “I just wanted to show up and give them something to cheer about,” says Wade, “something to be happy about.” Video of the event showed exactly that. But he also sat down with the students and talked to them, and more importantly listened to them, as a leader of the community should.
As part of his promotion for Booking.com’s “Booking the U.S.” list—which includes a suite tonight at American Airlines Arena in Miami—we talked to Wade about that visit, as well as how much longer he thinks he wants to play, and what he wants to do when his basketball career is over.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
I wanted to start with the Booking.com thing first—I see in Miami they have a suite at the arena. Was there ever a time you stayed overnight at the arena?
It was never a time I stayed overnight because it wasn’t this nice, I would have had to sleep on a floor or a couch or something. But it definitely was times when I was in the arena late at night, especially in the Shaq era, we used to be working out at midnight, 1 in the morning, whenever we had our championship teams we were in the arena late at night. I definitely would have stayed over if it was a Booking.com around at the time that was able to put a suite like this together, this is pretty cool.
Did you get a chance to try it out first?
Yeah. I mean I would, my wife [Gabrielle Union] don’t like that. But I’m here, I get a chance to come here and be one of the first ones to see it and experience it. Tonight, the game that we play against Philly is the one night that it’s available, so we’ve been trying to tell people to come out and get it now. It’s something that I feel if you’re a fan, if you love the Miami Heat, if you love this game, if you love everything that goes into it, it’s definitely great to be here for a night, to spend a night here. Right now I’m sitting on what would be your balcony if it was your condo, and I’m looking at the 2006, the 2012, the 2013 championship banners, I’m looking at everything. It’s cool man, it’s really the history of Miami, you get a chance to be here and feel it, and be a part of it.
Which leads into, did you ever expect to be finishing this year in Miami?
No I didn’t. It’s definitely something that happened that I wasn’t anticipating. I had interviews before where I said I wanted to finish my career there, I don’t know how it’s going to happen. And when I said I didn’t know how it was going to happen I had no idea it would happen like this, but it’s definitely been a blessing in disguise for me, man, I’m glad to be back, and everything worked out the way it is. My appreciation for the city and the city’s appreciation for me is at an all-time high, so it’s great.
Was there a moment when it first happened when you were thinking ‘wait, not this fast!,’ with unfinished business in Cleveland?
No. When it happened it was at the right time for everybody, from the standpoint of the players that’s not there and the players that’s there. I felt it happened at the right time, it ran its course in a sense of we wasn’t gonna be the team that we all got together to be. I was ecstatic, I was excited. At the time that it happened I was dealing with the death of my agent at the time, I was really in a tough place, like borderline depression in a sense, and it gave me that jolt, it gave me that excitement and that look forward that I needed.
And I know they say “happy wife, happy life,” I’m sure Gabrielle was happy to get back to Miami.
[Laughs.] Definitely, I think everybody seen that when she came off the plane dancin’ and prancin’. But yeah man just to be back home, to be back with our kids—my wife she travels, right now she’s in Los Angeles shootin’ a TV show so she’s not here every day, but the comfort of being back home and everything that we have here, the fanbase that we have here, the support that we have here, and the love that we have here, it was great to get back to that.
I saw some of the video from when you visited Stoneman Douglas High School, can you talk about what that was like for you?
For me it was cool to be able to come and give a moment of relief for the kids, of joy and excitement. This was the first full day back to school and I just wanted to show up and give them something to cheer about, something to be happy about. I know and I heard most of the kids there, a lot of kids in the whole state of Florida were excited about me coming back, but they experienced something that is—especially for a parent like myself—a nightmare to even think about. And so if I could come in and be able to put a smile on those kids faces, that’s what I wanted to do. But also I wanted to sit down with them and I wanted to talk to them about ways that I can help as well. I understand my reach, and I understand ways that I can bring more attention to what they’re trying to do. They’re really trying to make change and they’re trying to make people aware and I support that, so I wanted to sit down with them and talk about that. It definitely was a great visit, and it be more cool things coming from it.
You’ve definitely been someone who’s been involved in activism your whole career, does this kind of re-energize you and give you another angle to approach things?
I just look at it, for me, it’s like what you do, you know? First of all, if you’re a person who cares, if you’re a person who has a heart, if you’re a person who lives in the community, you support your community and you support the youth, you support the future, that’s just what we do. None of us become who we are, none of us become successful without someone supporting us and believing in us and all these things. For me I don’t even look at it like I’m an activist, I look at it like I’m a citizen of the community that cares. I may be one of the most popular ones, I may have one of the loudest voices, but I’m still a citizen of the community that cares about this city and this state, and I want to do my best to make sure that whatever it is I can do to help further the change and further the conversation.
Is this something you want to get more involved in as your career winds down—I don’t want to suggest that you’re closer to the end than the beginning—
Ah, you can suggest that, that’s kinda true [laughs].
Time comes for everyone. Have you been thinking about what you want to do after you hang the sneakers up?
I’ve tried out things, I’ve thought about a lot of things, I don’t think I’m gonna know exactly until I’m done. The biggest thing what I’ve always tried to do, the doors have always opened especially when you’re in the situation that I’ve been in for 15 years, the doors have stayed open and I’ve always tried to walk through those doors and at least test it out and see if I can, or if I want to, to do this or try this. I never looked at it and said I’m gonna do one thing when I get done playing basketball because I don’t think one thing is gonna fill the void of what I will be missing. So I definitely want to make sure I am doing multiple things.
What about from a basketball perspective? You don’t have a lot left to prove—you’re already a lock Hall of Famer, a multiple-time champion, a Finals MVP. What’s left for you to accomplish?
Well, I think from a public/media standpoint I’m not out to prove anything. When I first came in, I wanted to prove everybody wrong, right? Then you get to a point with success and now you wanna prove people right. I think now, what it is to prove to myself is, being 36 years old and I went through multiple injuries and things where people would have stopped playing a long time ago, how can you—especially coming back here and getting a different opportunity than I had earlier in the season—how can I continue to prove to myself that I can still play this game at that level when need be, don’t need to do it every night, especially when you have a team that’s good, but when they call on you, when they look in to you, how can you rise and step up to that challenge? That right there continues to drive me through the season.
Are you at a point now where you look at it every year, “Is this the last year, do I want to keep doing it?”
For me, going into the summer—if anybody follows me and my wife, they gotta know that we travel the world, man. We go places and we enjoy ourselves. And when I’m there, I’m reflecting and I’m thinking, I’m trying to see inside if it’s something that I want to continue to do. Because not playing the game of basketball has nothing to do with you not being able to play, sometimes it has to do with a lot of other things as well. You get a lot of people that say “man, keep gettin’ those checks, keep gettin’ those checks” and all these things, and it’s well some guys should do that and then others, you have to analyze and see if this is what you still want to do as well. So I definitely go into the summer and I say “all right, that season ended, how do I feel, how did I feel, do I think I can do it again for 82, do I think I can give my all to it,” all these things.
So this summer, when I’m on vacation, when I’ve used Booking.com to go on vacation [laughs], when me and my wife are sitting somewhere sippin’ on something, for me some fruity drink, I’m definitely gonna sit back and I’m gonna talk about and think about what I wanna do going forward. I’m 36 and I’ve shown I can still play the game when given the opportunity to play it the way that I know how in the right situation, but also it’s definitely tough to do it every night the way that you want to, at the highest level you want to. So it’s a lot of things you gotta sit down and decide, and when that time comes I’ll sit down and decide it, but I’ll be somewhere warm with my feet up when I do.
When you are done, do you see yourself being involved in the league in some way or do you, you know, want to go out and win an Oscar like Kobe?
[Laughs] Well that goes back to I want to do multiple things, I don’t just want to do one. I definitely will be involved in some way, I don’t know exactly right away what it would be. But at some point yeah, I love this game so much I want to be around this game, but you don’t know what it’s gonna be as soon as you get done. But you definitely want to get into other things that drive you, for Kobe he’s always been driven by storytelling. You sit down and have a conversation with him, he’s an unbelievable storyteller. When he tellin’ you in nine different languages, he can tell you stories—so now he’s able to put those stories to animation, and that’s what drives him, that’s what gets him out of bed every day. So you definitely want to find that thing that’s a passion for you to be able to do when you’re done dribbling this ball the way that you always have.
But for you playing basketball is the thing that gets you out of bed every day still.
Yeah yeah. It’s still that thing. When I get out of bed now my steps are a little slower and I’m a little sore at times [laughs], but it’s definitely the thing that gets me up and make sure I’m in that gym, gets me to work on my body, work on my game, and get ready to compete. It’s still there. I’m a competitor, and I love the nights where I have amazing nights and I love the nights where I don’t because I know that it’s going to drive me to have that amazing night again. So it continues to keep me going.
For me I don’t even look at it like I’m an activist, I look at it like I’m a citizen of the community that cares.
What do you want to get out of the rest of this season in Miami?
First of all from a team standpoint we’re fighting for the playoffs. We want to put ourselves in the best position for the playoffs, we want to continue to use this time to get better as a team, to understand our identity so once when we get into the playoffs we’re a tough out every night. If a team’s gonna beat us, they’re gonna have to beat us. And for me, coming back, I just want to finish this season, play these last—right now I think we got 17 more regular season games—I just want to go out there and enjoy this game, man, playing it to win, since we fighting for the playoffs it’s the atmosphere of a playoff, and I’m just out there to enjoy it, man, I’m out there to give everything I have whether it’s home or the road and give my fans the Dwyane Wade in a Miami Heat jersey that they’ve been yearning for and missing, so that’s it.
We saw that you’ve never faced off against LeBron in the playoffs, would that be a perfect ending to this season?
Yeah, that would be cool, that would actually be pretty cool. We’ve gotten close a few times, but either they lost or we lost or something like that. But we’d definitely have to put ourselves in a position—right now they’re in the third seed, we’re in the seventh or eighth or whatever—we’d definitely have to put ourselves in a position to end the season better than we’ve played of late, but as a competitor you know I would love it.