- The ESPN documentary “D. Wade: Life Unexpected,” about the NBA star’s life and career, premieres on Sunday.
- Ahead of the release of the documentary, Wade spoke to Business Insider about the documentary, his NBA career, and more.
- Wade also discussed the “peak” Miami Heat teams, load management, and the young stars that excite him today.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One year into retirement, Dwyane Wade is proud.
He is proud of his accomplishments in his career — from his influence on the game, to his championships with the Miami Heat, his impact on free agency and “player empowerment,” and the hands in which he has left the game.
And he is proud to own his own content. On Sunday, “D. Wade: Life Unexpected,” a documentary by ESPN, will premiere. The documentary chronicles Wade’s life and career, with behind-the-scenes footage of his childhood, college career, and 16 seasons in the NBA. The film also dives into Wade’s personal life, from raising his children, his first marriage, and his current marriage to Gabrielle Union.
Ahead of the premiere of the documentary, Wade sat down with Business Insider to discuss his path to the NBA, basketball influences, the Miami Heat, and more.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Scott Davis: A major focus and theme of your documentary is how you handled adversity — your relationship with your parents, having your first son at Marquette, being down in the Finals, LeBron James leaving Miami, you leaving Miami, all these kinds of things. I was wondering to who and to what do you kind of credit your ability to keep going?
Dwyane Wade: I credit it to life experiences. I think once you’ve been put in a situation enough times where you have to keep going, you figure out how to keep going. It’s like I kind of said in my documentary, when you grow up in the inner-city, when you grew up in a hood, there’s no one really caring about your tears because everyone is struggling. Everyone’s going through the same thing. So, you gotta lace them up tighter, and you gotta keep going. I’ve learned to keep pushing and keep pushing through that. It’s not easy. It’s not always as easy as you may make it seem, but it’s no stop, right? There’s no quit in me because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I did.
Davis: The documentary talks about your upbringing playing basketball. I could probably guess who some of your basketball influences were, but as you grew older and your game changed a little bit, who did you look to learn new things and evolve your game?
Wade: Growing up, Michael Jordan, of course, right? I grew up in Chicago. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson. Those are like my three. That was the three guys that I was like, okay, let me take a little bit from here, take a little bit from there, and make whatever you see on the court. It was very similar to the way I felt I could play, and the way I did play. And along the way, I think you take things from people who have influenced your life, whether it’s trainers or whether it’s coaches. You just take a lot of things from individuals, and you mix it and make it your own.
Davis: There’s a section in the documentary where Miami Heat GM Andy Ellsberg talks about the 2006 Finals when you helped to lead the Heat back from a 2-0 deficit and won Finals MVP. He says it’s the closest thing to Michael that the Heat have had — obviously Michael Jordan. I was wondering what that means to you, having grown up a fan of him, to be in that air.
Wade: Anytime you are mentioned in conversations with someone of that stature of greatness, you got to take a moment and be like, whoa, like pinch yourself. Because you know, that means you’ve done something special. I grew up watching Michael take over games. I grew up watching Michael take over Finals. I grew up watching him dominate, so I had a vision of how to do it. I just had to learn how to do it myself. And when I got to the place where I felt I was there, like, I thanked him for giving me that vision.
Davis: The documentary footage of yourself throughout your career. There are times where you’re recording yourself or other people recording you behind the scenes. Did you always know you wanted to document it like this when you were finished playing?
Wade: I knew that it went fast, and I knew that I wanted to look back on these moments. When I first started, when I first started getting all this footage, it was in the beginning of the social media era. So, you didn’t know what the world was going to be today. But I wanted to have my own. I wanted to own my own content. When you get into the place where you want to put things out, and someone else owns it, you’ve got to get it from someone else, and it’s your story. So I wanted to own my own story. I wanted to own my own content. So 10-plus years ago, I started that process. It just so happened that once I ended my career, I was like, okay, we got all this footage, let’s do something with it to kind of wrap up this journey and this part of my life. And once we do that, now we can move on, and we can start this next journey.
Davis: Speaking of a previous era, I have a photo for you. Your 2003 draft class is very iconic. And maybe as iconic are the suits in this photo.
Wade: So iconic. So iconic.
Davis: I was wondering, as someone who is into fashion, if you can comment on your suit, maybe LeBron’s, Carmelo’s. What do you see now? Do you think this could ever come back in style?
Wade: We got enough fabric on these suits to clothe the entire country. This is just the era that we was in. We was in a baggy era. I’m talking about pants-on-the-ground era, where they’re dragging.
But it’s funny when I look back at it, and I thought I was like, doing the right thing. I was like, “I’m not going to go loud.” I went with a dark blue, navy blue suit. I’m like, “In 20 years, they can’t talk about me because I ain’t did nothing crazy.” And they still found a way to talk about me because I did look like a deacon.
So we did not represent fashion and style at this point. But what we did is eventually, we started creating a lane in fashion and style for the next gen to come up and not look like this on their draft night.
Davis: Today’s players wear a much different style of suit. Do you think in 20 years from now we’ll look back on some of the tight suits, the short crop on the legs, and laugh or will that stay?
Wade: Definitely. That’s what we do. We look back, and we laugh at ourselves. In fashion, it all comes back. That fashion that we had is coming back now. They bringing baggy back. You know, it’s like bell-bottoms and all that. Everything is coming back. So it’s just going to be tapered a little different. Fashion is just a recycle. It’s just, you know, different ways to do certain things. So the crop, the capris, and all that is going to be laughed about. But then it did come right back and be a thing again.
Davis: I wanted to circle back to influences and today’s game. If you were playing today, is there anybody you would want to learn from or workout with? Players with a different style? Also, do you think your game has influenced anybody that you see today?
Wade: Well, I definitely hope that my game influenced a generation. I know a few of the young guys already that watched me growing up, and I was their favorite player.
But if I had an opportunity now to continue to keep playing, I would want to work out and pick the minds of the new generation coming in. Because this is their game, you know. This is their pace. This is their style. And I would want to know how I can be my best self with that. So I would reach out to the Trae Youngs of the league, the Lukas, the Ja Morants of the league, and all these young guys. Because I would want to be able to be effective in their game, and this is their time.
Davis: What do you think of load management today? Early in your career, you were playing 38, 39 minutes a game sometimes. Do you think it’s something you would have enjoyed if you were coming up in this era — having games off every now and then, limited minutes, etc.?
Wade: Sign me up for load management. But I understand it. It’s this — on one end, it’s a long season. Your body go through a lot throughout, you know, especially if you are in a situation like Kawhi Leonard, who went to the championship, went to the Finals, had a little time off, and then got to get right back to it. I did it four years in a row. So your body at some point it does break down, and you want to be able to — especially when you have a good team — you want to be able to be in a position where you’re at your best later. So you take some games off early in the year to kind of rest the body and the mind.
But also, on the other side of it, fans pay their money. Maybe they want an opportunity to see you play, and you’re not playing because of load management. So I definitely understand it from both sides. I don’t think there’s a right answer to it.
But I would have signed up for it. I actually did one season. I didn’t play back-to-backs. Coach sat me out of back-to-backs one year because of injuries that I had, but I still wanted to be out there with my teammates instead of having surgery and sitting out the entire season.
Davis: LeBron James pretty famously says he doesn’t want to rest. He won’t sit out games because he doesn’t know who’s coming to see him that day. He’s 35 now, in the later stage of his career. Do you ever call him to be like, “You guys are preparing for a deep playoff run. You gotta take a night off.”
Wade: No, no. Players got to go through their own process, and everyone does it differently. You can’t expect every player to be the same, think the same, have the same mentality at all. So, that works for him and what works for somebody else is just a little different and, and that’s okay. That’s what makes it a unique world because we’re not all the same.
Davis: The documentary talks about the 2012-13 season with the Heat, with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, as an all-time great season in the NBA. Since retiring, Chris Bosh has said that he thinks that the 27-game win streak you had was some of the best basketball he’s ever been a part of. He thinks LeBron was at his peak. I’m just curious how you look back on that era and being part of some of the best basketball that’s ever been played.
Wade: I think going through that process, we knew that it was something special that was being done. You could feel it. And definitely ‘Bron was at his — I mean you can’t say that he’s not at his peak still, but you know, he was definitely at the best of LeBron James we have ever seen.
But our whole team was just clicking, and we were having fun during that process. That’s when we did the “Harlem Shake” video. And, like, we became that team. Like, two years before, we was the team that was hated because of the decision we made. And then two years later we was loved because we have fun playing the game of basketball. And winning 27 in a row, man, it felt like you can never lose. It was just automatic. Down 27 in a fourth quarter? That’s okay. We’ll come back. It was that mentality, and it was so much fun and memories that we’ll always have.
Davis: The documentary talks about that 2010 free agency where you guys decided to team up. How do you look back on that and how it’s changed the landscape of the league in terms of player empowerment, players kind of taking their careers and decisions into their own hands?
Wade: I’m proud of it. I’m proud to be a part of LeBron and Chris Bosh and myself, proud that we was a part of creating that change and shifting the power. It’ll shift back at some point. But 10 years strong, the power has been shifted into the player’s hand. As a player and as an advocate for the players coming forward and after us, coming up, that’s what you want. We understand what the game has done for us, and the platform the game give us, but the game is only as good as the players. And the fact that the players can have that power, it makes me feel good to know that we was in the beginning phases of that.
Davis: The documentary finishes on you ending your career, your last game, and moving on to the next chapter. Now looking at the NBA as a whole, what do you see that you like and where do you think the game could still go, where can it improve?
Wade: The game is just going that way [up]. I think we had a point in our game, definitely before LeBron and Chris and Melo and myself came in, where it was a little low for a while, and I thought David Stern did an amazing job of creating something else. Even the rules for fashion, that just created another excitement, that brought different eyes in. The NBA always find a way to make sure that they’re relevant. And I feel like we’re in great hands. You know, when you think about Zion Williamson, when you think about, like I said earlier, Trae Young, Luka, Ja Morant, it’s so many young stars in this game that you’re like, the game’s in great hands.
- Read more from Scott Davis:
- Tristan Thompson says LeBron James ‘eats like s—‘ and has the worst diet ever, but dominates anyway
- The wild story of how Kobe Bryant nearly ended up with the Nets — and several others teams — in the legendary 1996 NBA draft
- Kobe Bryant’s tragic death sent shockwaves around the world and put a spotlight on how to grieve a public icon
- NBA POWER RANKINGS: Where all 30 teams stand for the stretch run of the season