The bus pulled up to 79th street in Chicago, Illinois in 1991. Before the bus had departed, Tragil Wade had told her brother, Dwyane, that they were going to go see a movie together after they got off of the bus. Once Tragil told Dwyane to get off at 79th street, however, the little nine-year old was surprised. His big sister had just taken him to go see his father, and she did not get off of the bus with him when it stopped. Instead, Tragil told Dwyane that she was coming back for him the next day, and that he should play with his step-brothers at his father’s place for the day. The innocent kid from the South Side of Chicago could have never expected that his sister would not go back to pick him up at all. In order to provide her brother with more opportunities and a higher quality of life, Tragil had made the ultimate sacrifice. She took Dwyane Wade away from the drug-infested neighborhood that his mother was living in and brought him to a household with more stability and greater familial structure. Little did she know that her brave decision would strongly influence the development of one of the greatest shooting guards the NBA has ever seen.
79th Street in Chicago. This is the place where Wade was dropped off by his older sister.
Growing up as the only son of Jolinda Wade in Chicago, Dwyane was spoiled in comparison to his sister. Tragil said that if Jolinda had a $1.50 for her kids to spend, her little brother would get the dollar. Although favored by his mom, Dwyane had a special relationship with his older sister as they had a tight bond in their childhood. Since they had to sleep on one bed together due to the financial situation that the family was in, Dwyane had an opportunity to tell his sister about his dreams and what he was thinking about on a daily basis. The two had each other’s backs as kids, which was profoundly displayed in an altercation Tragil had been involved in at school with a bully. A boy who was significantly bigger than Dwyane had approached his sister, but the little man of the Wade household held his ground against the imposing figure. In a neighborhood where murders were viewed as routine and conventional, these two kids found a way to stay out of the drugs and crimes that were associated with their location. Another issue, however, plagued their childhood. After their parents divorced when Dwyane was four months old, his mother preceded to ingratiate herself with the drug and alcohol community. Alcohol became a favorable recourse for Ms. Wade, and she would later abuse drugs that included cocaine and heroin. A day in the Wade household for the children would be described as disturbing, as their mother would occasionally get high in front of them. In order to keep up this troubling habit, Jolinda would sell drugs when money was in low supply. It got so bad that she actually became a tester, which is a person who tries different drugs in order to make sure that the product is ready to be sold on the streets. The tester got the drugs for free because he or she would essentially be risking their lives as the product was not verified at the time for street consumption. Dwyane knew of his mother’s addiction and so did his sister, which increased the urgency for Tragil to get him away from this dangerous environment. After being duped by his sister into living with his father, Dwyane’s life turned a full 180 degrees as he was able to flee to a much healthier and productive household.
Fair or not, Dwyane Wade Sr., who served in the army, drilled his sons intensely on the basketball court. Although his step-brothers were hammered during workouts alongside him, Wade Jr. was the one who fought through the anguish and tribulations associated with the regiment to make a name for himself. Dwyane has had plenty of coaches throughout his lifetime, but his father’s persistence on perfection molded him into the Hall of Famer that we have witnessed in the NBA. If Dwyane made an error during the course of a game as a child, his father would take him to a hoop after the game and perfect the area of basketball that he struggled with. If Wade Jr. got knocked down in a game against his father while playing with his step-brothers, there would be no assistance in restoring himself back to his prior position. The development of his craft was strenuous and demanding on Wade’s will, but the military background of his dad ensured Dwyane that there was no quitting in this process. This basketball guidance from his father translated into Dwyane becoming a star at Harold L. Richards High School, albeit a slow process that emulated Michael Jordan’s journey. Like Jordan, Wade did not make his high school varsity basketball team until he reached his junior year. Once Dwyane Wade made it to the highest level of his school’s basketball team, he had to deal with academic struggles that threatened his collegiate career. Although he was recruited by Marquette and agreed to join the college after his senior year of high school, his eligibility for the 2000 season was in jeopardy as it all came down to a college entrance exam. Unfortunately, the results did not turn out in Wade’s favor, and his future coach, Tom Crean, was upset as he was aware of Dwyane’s hard work and triumphs. As Dwyane Wade was in the midst of serving his year of ineligibility, his mother was on the path to recovery.
Dwyane Wade driving for a layup during high school. Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.com
Jolinda Wade’s life was spiraling out of control in the 1990’s. She was abusing mainline heroin and crack cocaine, she put her life on the line for free drugs, and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) nearly killed her after she thought she was injecting herself with heroin. Unfortunately, the prospect of death did not stop Wade’s willingness to sacrifice her health and her freedom just for the pleasure of drugs. In 1994, Jolinda Wade was arrested and put in Cook County Jail after being found with the possession of crack cocaine with the intent to sell. This was a particularly emotional time for the ten year-old Dwyane, who had not seen his mother in almost two years after being sent to his father’s residence. He would get really emotional after visiting his mother in jail because he couldn’t stand talking to her through a glass window. Jolinda was eventually released from County Jail, but the perpetual routine of overdosing and abusing drugs continued until a very important day in 2001. On October 14th, a very disturbed and frightened Tragil Wade told her mother how nervous she was about something happening to Jolinda. That very day, a brave Jolinda Wade made the audacious move to go into the church and confront the inner-demons that she had been fighting with for a few decades. After being instructed by the pastor to read 2 Timothy 3:5, a moment of revelation came upon Jolinda that ushered in a new life of sobriety from that day forward. The words, “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof,” resonated with the mother of Dwyane Wade as she quit drugs cold turkey and slowly moved on from cigarettes. At first, Tragil was deservedly skeptical of this bold action from her mother as she has witnessed around two decades worth of self-destruction. Once Jolinda turned herself into Chicago police to serve her 14 month prison sentence on January 2 of the next year, however, the rehabilitation process was given some verisimilitude. Although Dwyane, who was a sophomore in Marquette at the time, was perturbed by the thought of witnessing his mother behind bars again, he would get the surprise of his life in his final home game of his collegiate career.
Jolinda Wade overcame her struggles and went on to become a pastor. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
On March 8, 2003, Jolinda Wade was able to witness her son’s final home game at Marquette just three days after being released from prison. Dwyane was not only nervous about capturing his college’s first Conference USA crown; he also had jitters as he was playing collegiate basketball for the first time in front of his mother. Dwyane’s response to immense pressure is something that would be consistent throughout the trajectory of his career: he strived under the spotlight and did it in style. Wade was able to lead his team to a 70-61 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats while dropping 26 points and collecting 10 rebounds in the process. The pride and jubilation that took over Jolinda’s emotions that evening represented how far she had come from the tumultuous lifestyle she had previously been living. With a marriage to his high school sweetheart and a mom who gave herself to God for a better life, Dwyane Wade was preparing to enter the realm of the NBA. After being selected with the number five pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat (and inexplicably picked after Darko Miličicć), Wade went on to become the greatest player in Heat history. The Heat were 25-57 in the season prior to selecting the Marquette phenom; besides a down year in the 2007-2008 season where Wade missed 31 games and the Heat went 15-67, Miami has never won below 37 games in Dwyane’s tenure. Dwyane Wade messed around and won a championship in his third season in the NBA while averaging more than 34 points per game and 8 rebounds per game in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. After being fed up with relative mediocrity in the four years after winning it all, Wade then resuscitated the Heat back to life after recruiting Chris Bosh (five time all-star at the time) and two-time league MVP LeBron James. By convincing the two future Hall of Famers to take a pay-cut, a move that won the franchise two championships from 2010 to 2014, Wade should be heavily credited with the two rings that the Heat won in this decade. Although Dwyane Wade did a lot for a franchise and a city that was often referred to as Wade County, the Heat seemingly did not return the generosity back to the Chicago native.
Wade and The Diesel celebrating a championship over the Mavericks. Photo Courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein
Dwyane Wade had one of the best careers we have ever seen from a shooting guard as the franchise star of the Miami Heat, but the organization did not show much respect to number 3. As I mentioned before about his pay-cut, Wade took just over $107 million over six years in 2010 in order to make way for LeBron James and Chris Bosh as he left about $15 million on the table. After the three All-Stars opted out of their contracts in the 2014 offseason, the priority for Pat Riley was to resign the four-time league MVP and the stretch-four who both made major contributions to their two championships. Once LeBron left for Cleveland, Riley made a swift move to sign Luol Deng to replace James, and the Heat’s President gave Chris Bosh a hefty five year, $118 million contract. Then, in a flagrantly disrespectful manner, Pat Riley gave Wade $11 million less than the contract that he had opted out of. Wade thus received a two year, $31 million contract in 2014 with a player option after one year, which could potentially make him a free agent in 2015. The pattern of disrespect continued into the 2015 offseason, in which the aspirations for the Heat organization were to resign Goran Dragić and pursue Carmelo Anthony. Once Dragić got his money and Anthony decided to continue his career with the Knicks, the Miami Heat gave Dwyane a one-year deal for $20 million after he opted out of his two-year contract. Although Wade was pursuing a long-term contract to finish his career with the team that he was drafted by, he decided to push it off one more year until the 2016 offseason. As Riley’s yearning for signing Kevin Durant dwindled into a mere speck of dust, the Heat still remained far apart from Wade and his representatives. Hassan Whiteside got big money as a free agent, as Miami remained unwilling to sign the future Hall of Famer to a contract that he was hoping for. Pat Riley offered Wade another slap in the face with a two year, $40 million offer, which was significantly less than what Dwyane was desiring. Once Wade evaluated this predicament with the organization that he spent 13 seasons with, he decided that enough was enough. It was time to return home.
Dwyane Wade was reasonably upset about the treatment he received from the Heat. Photo Courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports
On July 6th, the Chicago native seemingly followed the footsteps of his former teammate, LeBron James, and decided to return to his hometown. The Chicago Bulls agreed to a two-year, $47 million deal with the former Heat shooting guard, a move that seemed peculiar on the surface to casual basketball fans. Why would an aging star go to a team that will be less competitive than Miami in the coming years? Dwyane is not signing with the 2010-2011 Bulls that featured the talents of Derrick Rose, a lockdown defender in Joakim Noah, and the recently acquired Carlos Boozer. Wade is signing with a mediocre squad at best that went 42-40 last year and may have actually regressed during the course of the offseason. The Bulls lost Pau Gasol to the Spurs and they shipped the former MVP to the Knicks for Robin Lopez, José Calderón, and Jerian Grant. Although the Bulls picked up Rajon Rondo for an inexpensive deal in comparison to the Benjamins that were being tossed around this summer, the team is not in any position at this juncture to compete with the Cavaliers or even the Raptors. Dwyane is a smart man and he is cognizant of every situation that he puts himself in, which makes it even harder to fathom his decision to take $3.5 million more per year just to sign with an average basketball team. After analyzing and dissecting the treatment of the Heat organization toward their greatest player, and reviewing Wade’s life before professional basketball was even a possibility, it begins to seem clear that Dwyane’s time simply ran up in Miami. He gave this organization all that he had, and the pile of disrespect that has been accumulated over the years finally pushed Wade out the door. In terms of dollars, Wade really had to choose between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls, and his love for the city he grew up in ultimately propelled his decision to join Jimmy Butler in Chi-Town. As a Miami native, I can only thank Wade for his contributions and salute him in his effort to bring the Bulls back to relevancy. Good luck, Mr. Wade.
Wade will go from guarding the Marquette alumni to playing alongside him next year. Photo Courtesy of NBA.com
Author’s Note: I would love to thank the documentary, Undeniable: The Rise of Dwyane Wade, for their excellent research into the life of the former Heat superstar. I credit them for assisting me heavily during the course of my research.
Events of Jolinda Wade displayed in this piece was assisted by Jennifer LeClaire of Charisma Magazine for her article “She Ain’t Playin'”.
The article “Schooled With Hard Knocks” by Amy Shipley of the Washington Post helped to provide more in-depth knowledge into Wade’s training by his father.
All stats and contract information is courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Featured Graphic is Courtesy of Bulls.com