Each year, Basketball legends venture to the birthplace of the sport to revel in the progression of the game and the accomplishments of their peers. To have your name in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is an achievement that many only dream of, but not all are granted. This year, basketball favorite Dwyane Wade—rightfully nicknamed "Flash"— will find his aspirations fulfilling as he is duly enshrined into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2023 induction class.
Dwyane Wade's leadership on and off the court has not only cemented his place in basketball history but as a distinguished purveyor of various industries and within culture. As a social justice advocate, supportive father and doting husband, he has garnered much respect for his diligence to each role he has played throughout his life. Because of this, it is fitting that he be acknowledged in this way.
Wade took a moment to go down memory lane with EBONY and reflect on his storied career and contributions to the sport and Black culture. He even gives us a sneak peek into what elements will be worked into his induction speech.
EBONY: Your induction has been a moment that so many fans and the culture have been looking forward to for years. How does it feel knowing that at the end of this week, you will officially be a Naismith Hall of Famer?
Dwyane Wade: I know that I was pretty good at the game of basketball. I know I put a career together that would eventually lead me to the Hall of Fame. But what is actually happening is surreal. I'm getting text messages from my family, and we are all in disbelief. "Not little Dwyane Wade with the boogers in his nose going to the Hall of Fame!" (laughs) This journey and this week has felt out of body for sure. But it's been so cool to go back and go down memory lane with my loved ones and those that have been on this journey forever with me. I may be the one saying the speech, but we are all walking in there with our chests poked out that night and heads up high together. I'm just trying to enjoy this as much as I can.
I was telling someone that I remember when Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction came, and we were all anticipating it. I feel our 2023 induction class is highly anticipated as well. I feel the love of my family. We're headed to Springfield pretty soon, and I can't wait to get there to feel the love even more. It's going to be a great time for basketball sports fans around the world and just for the game period.
Personally, as a kid growing up in Springfield— the birthplace of basketball— the enshrinement each year was this untouchable, aspirational event that brought so much vigor and light to this city. Reflecting on your childhood, did you ever believe that this would be possible? What would you say to young Dwyane today?
I would let him know that what he's going to go through in life— the hardships— will be worth it. I would also tell him to not lose himself in the process. It's so easy to lose yourself in the process of this journey. I'd let young Dwyane Wade know that there's going to be some potholes and some flat tires but there will also be some moments that will fill your heart with so much joy. He's going to see his mother becomes somebody that he could never imagine she would. He will see his relationship with his dad come to a place where he's his best friend. Everything that's happening to him in his youth is going to get better. Even when it ain't good, it's going to get better.
How did playing alongside other Hall of Famers sharpen your skills as an individual? Are there specific pieces of advice that the game of basketball or other Hall of Famers have given you that still sticks with you?
I'm always a sponge, and I've learned so much from this game. I've always felt so lucky and blessed to be in a profession like this. My second year in the NBA, I was playing with Shaquille O'Neal. I was just trading his playing cards, and then I was playing alongside him and tasked with winning a championship with him. But through this time, I also had the chance to watch this person build a brand that is way bigger than the game.
There are so many influential players that I've met in my life that obtained blueprints from and develop myself. I'm gonna talk about this in my speech, but to be able to play the game of basketball with other statutes in the game ain't easy. What I've always tried to do is understand what my role is, and to give the game my best. If my role is to score 30 points a game, then I'm going to go do that. But if my role is to get LeBron the ball and then score 22 points a game, then I'm going to do that and try to be the best at that role. That's all I've tried to do in every aspect of my life.
Ultimately, it seems as though this stage in your life is centered around legacy. Being rooted in your family, building a portfolio of various businesses and other endeavors— what does legacy look like in your own words? How do you define it?
I think legacy is defined in so many different ways. From a business standpoint, all the things that I'm trying to build and create is with the hope that it becomes a family business. I hope everything that we're doing—that my wife and I are doing—becomes something our kids are proud of and want to take to the next level and their kids as well. People often speak of generational wealth, but instead it's about generational opportunities. I told my kids that all I ask is that a picture of me hang in their homes, and they tell their future children, "This is granddad, and he really put on for us!"
Outside of that legacy, one of my biggest legacies is that of who I am as an individual. Legacy comes from the conversations that happen when you're not in a room. It's the things that people say about you when you're not around and when they first meet you. Did you shake their hands and look them in the eye? I hope that my legacy is about how I've been able to positively affect the people that I've met.
In the public eye, we’ve seen you present as being ego-less, while the game requires you to carry a certain level of bravado and confidence. How have you remained humble outside the realm of basketball and what do you accredit to finding fullness in your life?
That comes from experience. I have not been in school for 20 years, and everything I've learned since has come from my experiences in life. That's been the best teacher for me and vice versa, I'm able to educate others through my experiences. I also think you have to give the people that are in your life credit, right? You don't just grow by yourself. You take pieces of a lot of other people. Like when it came to my game, I took a piece of Jordan and I took a piece of Iverson. In life, take pieces from my wife and carry her with me. So I attribute so many influential folks to that.
Aside from your career, you have been genuinely invested in mediums that bring about social change and equity, especially for marginalized groups and BIPOC individuals. Why is it important for you to occupy/give back in these spaces?
I think it's a lot of reasons why some people decide not to give back. In my case, I had to eat food because the church was providing food. I had to get clothes because other people were gracious enough to get clothes from the church. I lived these days and experienced these things, so I understand that without those resources, my family and I wouldn't have eaten and would have been freezing walking two miles to school in the winter. I want to be one of the people who haven't forgotten that we all get by with the help of the community and others. To whom much is given, much is required. And a lot is required, luckily, because I've been given a lot.