On Sunday night, ESPN released its latest storytelling classic: a 30 for 30 films project chronicling the life and career of Dwyane Wade. Running 90 minutes, the documentary highlights all aspects of D-Wade’s life—from his difficult childhood, to the Big 3 era, to his marital troubles and relationship with Gabrielle Union, to his parenting approach, to the culmination of his triumphant career.
One thing is clear: You’ll feel that you know Dwyane Wade much better after consuming this wide-ranging narrative.
It delivers a behind-the-scenes look, weaving in interviews and personal video camera footage dating back to his high school years. Here are 14 of the most interesting takeaways from the compelling documentary.
He Panicked When Zaire Was Born
Zaire Wade is now 17 years old, 6’2”, and a Division 1 recruit. This film takes you through Zaire’s life from the start—and at the outset, having a child had Dwyane downright terrified. He was early in his Marquette career when his longtime girlfriend, Siohvaughn, discovered she was pregnant.
Wade was struggling to focus on the court, so his coach, Tom Crean, pulled him aside and asked, What the hell is wrong with you?
“I just broke down,” Wade recalled of their conversation. “Siohvaughn’s pregnant, I’m about to have a kid, my career, my life is over. Coach let me cry on his shoulders and he said, ‘Listen, we gonna get through this.’ It felt good because I was looking for that. I was looking for someone to tell me, ‘It’s going to be alright, and I got you.’”
Wade added that, despite their similarities, he doesn’t want his son to be known as ‘Young Flash’—he wants Zaire to be his own person.
Wade's Childhood Was Tumultuous
Wade grew up in a rough part of Chicago. His mom and dad were in an on-and-off relationship, with Dwyane Wade Sr. having just gotten out of the Army and Dwyane’s mother on public aid when Flash was born. Dwyane grew up around gang-banging and drugs, as his mom wrestled with addiction.
“I remember having a conversation with my mom—she thought she did a good job of hiding it from me,” Wade said. “I was like, ‘No, mom, I watched you shoot up. I was right there in the room.’ Because she was so in her addiction, she didn’t compute it that I was sitting right there.”
Their house was known as the hottest on the block, and police would raid it about three times per year, the family said. Wade said that difficult upbringing, however, inoculated him to other challenges in life—it made him somewhat fearless.
The Crescendo of His College Career
Once Wade wrapped his head around being a dad, his play on the court took off. In the 2002-03 season, he averaged 21.5 points and led Marquette to a 27-6 record. Just days after his mom, JoLinda, was released from jail, she attended a huge showdown between the Golden Eagles and Cincinnati. Wade led his squad to an upset of Jason Maxiell’s Bearcats to win the Conference USA title.
“I saw all these people, and they had signs up, and guess whose name was on them? My baby,” JoLinda recalled. “And they were chanting, ‘Wade! Wade! Wade!’”
It was the biggest game of his college career. Then, his squad advanced to the Elite 8 and upset Kentucky, with Wade recording a triple-double. He blossomed on the national level in the tournament. His team was bounced in the Final 4, but Wade was ready for the league.
“[I asked], are you ready to emotionally go do this and have to lead your own life?” Crean said. “He said, ‘I think I am.’”
The Heat took Wade No. 5 in the 2003 draft, after LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh.
Shaq Was a Crucial Mentor
In his rookie year, Wade hit a huge last-second floater against the Charlotte Hornets in the playoffs. That was when the rest of the NBA realized he was a budding superstar—but his own team had long known it.
“I just knew we had somebody very special,” said Pat Riley, who plays a prominent role in the documentary.
Riley, however, knew he had to get Dwyane some help...so he traded for Shaquille O’Neal, who had grown disgruntled in L.A. Shaq embraced his veteran status and became a big brother to Wade.
“I showed him how to walk the walk, I showed him how to talk the talk,” Shaq said.
Shaq also encouraged him to be The Guy, and that selflessness manifested in the 2006 NBA championship.
The 2006 Finals Was a Turning Point
In that NBA Finals, Wade’s Heat faced Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs took a 2-0 lead and were up 13 in the fourth quarter of Game 3. That was when Wade’s mindset shifted. He went into you-can’t-guard-me mode.
He led his team to a comeback win by scoring 15 straight points, then powered Miami to a series win in six games. It was a furious, memorable run for Wade, Shaq & Co.
“That was the closest performance we had in a Miami uniform to Michael,” Heat GM Andy Elisburg said of Wade’s emergence.
The young star won Finals MVP.
A Trying Divorce
Dwyane and his first wife got together at 16 years old. Late in high school, Dwyane’s home life was so tough that he moved in with Siohvaughn’s family.
Their relationship, however, was rocky early in Dwyane’s NBA career.
“We had a lot of differences, and we didn’t know how to handle that,” Wade said.
After briefly giving counseling a shot, they decided to divorce. They struggled to agree on a custody deal, though. In the film, Dwyane sheds light on a situation that “became ugly, it became real nasty”—but ultimately, he got custody of the kids.
On the court, amid all this drama, he was balling out.
“It was the anger, the frustration, the hurt of what he was going through in this custody battle, and basketball was his sanctuary,” said manager Lisa Joseph Metelus.
Behind the Big 3 Connection
When LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade all became free agents in the summer of 2010, none of them knew where they’d go. Wade considered the Knicks (when he visited NY, he said he was in a “New York state of mind”) and hometown Bulls (where he wore a Bulls Wade No. 3 jersey). But on July 4, he received a text from LeBron asking him to get on a call. CB4 was on it, too.
“I’m in, I’m in, I’m in,” Wade recalled of the players saying in unison on the call. “July 4 was the moment that we decided we were all going to play together.”
But then, days after Wade and Bosh had announced their decisions on ESPN, they hadn’t heard from LeBron...and didn’t know where his mind was.
“Then we hear that he has this special coming up on ESPN, and we like, what the fuck is going on?” Wade said. They were concerned James had changed his mind.
“I go to the TV and have a decision party like everybody else in America,” Wade said. When LeBron announced he and his talents were headed for South Beach, there was shouting, clapping, and cheering in the Wade household. The room exploded with excitement.
The Tough Launch of the Big 3
The Heat rubbed people the wrong way with their grand entry to the Big 3 era—the smoke, the guarantees, all the fanfare.
“20,000 people came to a game with no ball,” Bosh said of the introductory pep rally. “We the only people in history to have a parade before a parade. Think about that, bro.”
Those three stars were all beloved before they united, but suddenly they became the league’s villains. When the Mavericks defeated Miami in the Big 3’s first Finals, Wade was furious.
“I remember just being angry at everybody,” he said.
The Turning Point for the Heat Big 3
After the loss to the Mavs, Wade went on vacation with LeBron and their significant others in the Bahamas. On that trip, Wade told him to take over. Much like Shaq did for him, Wade checked his ego at the door.
“I was like, ‘Listen, you gotta be you and we gotta get behind you,’” Wade said. He added that many wondered why he’d do that—they did, after all, call it Wade County. “If we didn’t win, it was a failure.”
They went on a historic run and won back-to-back rings. When LeBron decided he was “coming home” after the team lost to the Spurs in its fourth consecutive Finals appearance, Wade stood behind his close friend, though he was a little hurt.
“I supported him going back, man, because I knew that for his career to be complete, he was going to have to go back,” Wade said. “He was going to have to win a championship without me.”
Bron is now chasing a championship with his third franchise.
Getting Together With Gabrielle Union
After his divorce, Dwyane started dating Gabrielle Union in 2008. It was sort of like a dream come true.
“Dwyane used to have posters of Gab up in college,” Metelus said.
They ultimately got married (you can see beautiful footage from their wedding), but during a period of separation, Wade had a child with another woman. He agonized over telling Union.
“Hardest thing I ever had to do is man up and tell Gabrielle Union I’ve had a child with someone else,” Wade said. “I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t eating.”
Leaving the Heat for the Bulls
The Heat gave Bosh a hefty contract after LeBron left, but Wade didn’t feel he received the same type of love. He agreed to a discounted two-year deal, but when that was up, he again felt disrespected. The Heat lowballed him.
“Pat fucked up the situation with me,” Wade said. “You start feeling that your worth is not seen.”
Riley acknowledged he didn’t handle it well.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s really hard when you’re in my position and you’re around a player that you love and you went to war with, won championships with…I’m sure that he felt Pat’s going to take care of this, and I didn’t. And it bothers me to this day.”
Wade signed with the Bulls, then the Cavs, but he came back to Miami after less than two years. He said during his time in Cleveland, he was like a zombie. He needed to jolt of life of returning to the 305.
Fight for Social Justice
While in Chicago, violence in the city became a growing issue. At the same time, numerous police shootings of black men were caught on camera. Wade, Carmelo Anthony, James, and Chris Paul kicked off the 2016 ESPYs with a memorable call to athletes to step up.
“We didn’t know how people were going to take it,” Melo said.
Wade said it was one of the most powerful moments of his life.
“We spoke our own truths and let our voices be heard,” Paul said. “When you get a chance to do powerful things, and you get to do it with the people that you love and truly care about, that’s what makes it even more special.”
Wade was also hit hard by the shooting and killing in Chicago of his cousin, Nykea Aldridge, a mother of four who was walking her baby in a stroller when she was killed. He became active in promoting social justice causes in the community.
“That was the first time where that move to Chicago really made sense…it was like there was a bigger reason why I’m here,” Wade said.
The Birth of His Youngest Child
On November 7, 2018, Wade and Union had a daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade, was born through a surrogate.
“Once we’ve seen that we could parent together with my kids, we both felt like it would be cool to be able to have one from scratch,” Wade said.
The film also chronicles their struggles to conceive.
“There were a ton of pregnancies and positive results, and then poof,” Union said. “Usually around the 6, 8 week mark, gone. Obviously I knew it was not him, and it literally just stayed like that for years. I just almost started expecting defeat.”
In the film, Dwyane sheds light on his experience parenting his daughter, Zaya.
“When Zaya came out to us, I had to get educated on every scenario and every situation, and I’m still being educated,” Wade said. “My child comes home and says, ‘Hey dad, I feel that I am a she.’ My job is to help you become who you are, but I’m not trying to change who you are. I see you how you see you, I stand for you. That’s a conversation I had to have with my daughter.”
Reminiscing On It All
At the beginning and conclusion of the film, Wade reflects on his wild journey from kid in the hood to all-time NBA great. The film ends where it starts—with Wade lying on his bed after his final game, thinking out loud as he looks into the camera.
“I can’t believe it’s over. I’m so fucking thankful, though,” he says in the opening scene of the film.
And at the end?
“The memories and the moments that we shared when we were together—oh, those motherfuckers gonna last me a lifetime.”