Considering he was just named to the NBA 75, won three titles, and in a few short years will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Dwyane Wade doesn’t have too many regrets from the 16 seasons he spent in the Association. But there’s at least one do-over he’d like to have.
It was 2011, and Wade, fresh off his first season turning the NBA on its head as a member of the Heat’s Big Three, was in Paris during the summer. After running into Kanye West at a fashion show earlier in the day, a chance meeting in a hotel elevator with Virgil Abloh turned into an invitation to West’s hotel room. Abloh told Wade he should come check out the new music West was working on.
Wade politely turned down a chance to hear Watch the Throne—Jay-Z and Kanye’s classic album that featured a DWade reference—way before the general public got its chance because he was too jet-lagged to hang with the artist. He’s still kicking himself about the episode 10 years later.
“I’m a person who, I work my butt off. I do all these things, but I say no to a lot of things when people invite me places,” says Wade. “It takes a lot for me to go. I said no to that. I don’t even know if Kanye remembers or know, but we were invited up by his crew, and I cannot believe I missed that moment.”
That story, and so many more, is told in the new book authored by Wade. Via publisher William Morrow and available from your favorite bookstore starting today, Dwyane is a photographic journey through the 13-time All-Star’s life, from Chicago kid to NBA legend, that features more than 200 exclusive pictures with accompanying words. The photos were largely taken by Bob Metelus, the retired superstar’s photographer, as Wade had him snap pics of him in all kinds of situations. The effort pays off with a coffee table book that offers a level of visual intimacy we rarely see from athletes.
“I have over a million-some photos of private moments, and I’ve been having this guy follow me around for so long,” says Wade. The ultimate goal was “to share some inner moments that my supporters never got a chance to get into.” DWade stans, and most especially Miami Heat fans, won’t be disappointed.
Not too long after he talked to Complex Sneakers at ComplexCon about his Li-Ning partnership, Wade hopped on the phone with Complex Sports to chat about his newest project, including what it felt like to be a rock star playing alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh, plus his thoughts on making the NBA 75, and a few more details on why he said no to Kanye that day in Paris.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Congrats on making the NBA 75 list. If you had the chance to include that honor, what would you write about it in the book?
I believe I would’ve went in from the 19-year-old kid who got that call that he was about to become a father and was scared as hell. That did not play his freshman year, that did not know what was next. I would go in from that kid’s eyes, and 20 years later, I’ve been named to a list of the greatest 75 players to ever play the game of basketball and how mind-boggling that is. How much of a miracle, and not just me, but that story. If you go down the story of that 19-year-old kid and everything it took to get to this point, and to know [at] the end of it you’re going to be named one of the 75 greatest ever, it’s one of those things that’s going to take me a long time to really capture the essence of how big that is.
Did you have a chance to look at the NBA 75 at all? Have you had a chance to take in who made the list and who didn’t? Because there are a lot of awesome guys that didn’t make the final cut.
Listen, one thing I do know is this game has been going on for 75 years, and I know that at least 50 of those 75 years, they’ve had 400-plus players every year. I know that millions of players around the world have tried to get into the NBA. I’m aware of how many people have played this game of basketball, and I’m also aware that at the end of all of these people who play the game of basketball, that I’ve been chosen to be one of 75, and I look and say, “Wait, so Michael Jordan’s on that list? Shaquille O’Neal’s on that list? Kobe Bryant’s on that list?” Like, some of my favorite players, guys I grew up idolizing. We’re all standing in the same room on this list, and it’s just one of those things that’s going to take me a long time to understand that’s me. Like, it really happened. Obviously, testament to hard work. Testament to success. But once again, I was a 19-year-old kid that was lost and didn’t know what was next. End up 20 years later, look what’s next.
“When we got into these arenas, we would get booed, people would say all these things about us. But at the end of the day, we watched other games that were going on and the other arenas weren’t as packed until we came to town.”
You opted for a picture book, basically a coffee table book, rather than something more traditional, like we saw out of Carmelo Anthony recently. Why this format?
I wrote a book already called A Father First and I kind of went more toward the fiction/non-fiction way, right? And now I wanted to come in a different way; I didn’t want to do the same thing again. I’ve been getting all these photos captured for the last 10, 11 years. I sat down with Bob and said, “Can we turn these photos into the memoir that people want to hear me talk about basketball? Can we go at it in a different way?” I have over a million-some photos of private moments, and I’ve been having this guy follow me around for so long, and what I wanted to do is to be able to share inner thoughts, wanted to be able to share some inner insecurities. I wanted to be able to share some inner confidence, wanted to be able to share some inner moments that my supporters never got a chance to get into. Our story has been told by media our entire basketball career, and so to be able to tell your own story and be able to look at photos and tell what really was going on in your mind and what really happened, to me, that’s what I wanted to do.
And you didn’t take any shots at former teammates like Scottie Pippen did with this book.
I guess it depends on who reads it. For me, at 39 years old, this was a goal for me. It was about me, but it was about the people who helped me get here, and I wanted to give them their roses as well. What someone else do, that’s on them. For me, in this process, I just wanted to give guys their roses. Even the Heat, even Pat Riley, even the guys that I’ve had moments with, it wasn’t all bad moments. It was so many good moments as well. We allow the bad moments to overshadow and outshine the good ones, and I wanted to make sure everybody that was part of my journey, whether it was my retirement speech or this book, understand how much they’re appreciated.
Why is the banana boat picture not in the book?
I don’t own that picture. [Laughs.] I own most of the pictures in the book.
You wrote about not getting more MVP and DPOY love during the ’08-’09 season without fully saying you were snubbed. But I get the sense you really feel like you were snubbed.
Yes, of course. I’m not the first athlete, and won’t be the last, to think they got snubbed for something, so there’s nothing juicy in there. I thought I had an amazing career. I thought with the cards I was dealt, I put on an MVP performance, and I thought I put on a Defensive Player of the Year performance. That year, I got third in voting for Defensive Player of the Year and made second-team All-Defense. I knew at that point that someone else’s ideas of defense and what made a great defensive player wasn’t the same as what I had grown up being told what makes a great defensive player. After that year, I really stopped caring about individual awards because I realized how meaningless they were going to be to my career.
And that kind of transitions us to the Big Three era in Miami. You really didn’t have any serious conversations about teaming up with LeBron until the summer of 2010, right?
I never thought that we would team up. I never thought about it. You know what I mean? I enjoyed the opportunity to play together at the Olympics. I enjoyed the opportunity to play together in the All-Star Games and summertime games. But I never thought we’d play together in an NBA game. When that conversation happened in the summer of free agency in 2010, it was a shock to me, as it probably was to the world. It probably was a shock to LeBron as well. We didn’t plan it. It just kind of organically happened, and a lot of that may be due to you see yourself playing with guys in the Olympics, you see yourself around a guy, you understand his personality fits with your personality. It may have something to do with Olympics and guys being together, but it’s not like, oh, we got together in the Olympics and made a decision. The decision was made—we just didn’t know it yet—by being around somebody and playing with somebody in those small moments.