When the Miami Heat selected Dwyane Wade with the fifth pick of the 2003 N.B.A. draft, the league was in dire need of star players to carry it out of the Michael Jordan era.
Wade’s draft class — which also featured LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony — ended up fitting the bill and then some. Wade immediately became one of the league’s most popular players, and his Miami teammate Shaquille O’Neal gave him the catchy nickname Flash. It was apt — Wade routinely attacked the rim with snazzy spin moves and finished with highlight-reel dunks and layups on his way to winning three championships.
This weekend, Wade will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a feat that seemed inevitable as he piled up accolades over a 16-year career. He made 13 All-Star teams, led the league in scoring once and was named the most valuable player of the 2006 N.B.A. finals, which Miami won over Dallas.
“To be able to be one of those select few out of an entire generation of people who have tried to play the game of basketball and to be able to walk into the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t matter if I knew 10 years ago or I just got the call yesterday — it all feels surreal,” Wade said in a recent interview.
Since retiring in 2019, Wade has acquired an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz and the W.N.B.A. team in his hometown Chicago, the Sky. In the spring, Wade revealed that he had moved his family out of Florida to California because of state laws that negatively affect the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Wade’s teenage daughter, Zaya, is transgender, and Wade has been outspoken on her behalf.
Wade recently spoke to The New York Times about his basketball career and potentially running for political office.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
You grew up in the South Side of Chicago without very much. When you retired, the former President Barack Obama taped a tribute video to you. How do you reflect on that journey?
My dad and I talk about it. We still can’t believe it. We still can’t believe the N.B.A. career happened and it’s gone by. I got a call from President Obama on my birthday when I turned 40, and it was like: “Hey, pick up the phone at this time. There’s going to be a call coming.” I’m like, “OK.” Once I got on, I heard, “You’re waiting for the president of the United States.” I was like: “What? This is my life, right?”
Your first N.B.A. game was against Allen Iverson. You’re having a bit of a full-circle moment this weekend by having him induct you. Why did you pick him?
Michael Jordan was my favorite player. But as I was growing up as a kid, as Michael Jordan decided to retire from the game, Allen Iverson became the hero of our culture. I think a lot of people know I wear No. 3, but a lot of people don’t know why I wear No. 3. And so I just wanted to take this moment as an opportunity that is supposed to be about me, and I wanted to be able to shine light and give flowers to individuals that allow me and help me get here. My family, of course. My coaches, of course. My teammates, of course.
But what about those individuals that gave you the image of what it looks like and how it can be done? And Allen Iverson gave me the image of how it looks like, how it could be done coming from the broken community that I came from. So I want to give him his flowers in front of the world because he deserves it.
You’re being inducted alongside Dirk Nowitzki, with whom you had, let’s call it a tense relationship at points. What’s your relationship with him like now?
I respect Dirk as one of the greatest players that ever played this game of basketball. It’s funny to have something with someone and we’ve never guarded each other. We played totally different positions, but as I’ve always said, if I’m going to have any words with anyone, I want them to come in the finals.
Dirk and I have played in the finals against each other twice. His team won once. My team won one. So I call it a wash. And I’m thankful to be able to be a part of the class that I’m a part of. And Dirk to me — and there’s no shade on anybody who’s ever played — but I think Dirk will probably be looked at as the greatest international player that we’ve ever seen.
You’ve talked at length about your advocacy on behalf of the transgender community, especially with your own child. What was your reaction to the Orlando Magic donating $50,000 to the super PAC affiliated with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida? (DeSantis has supported legislation such as what opponents deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a law signed last year that limits what instructors can teach about sexuality and gender in classrooms. The Magic’s donation was dated May 19, just days before DeSantis announced a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.)
I have so many things that I’m focused on and there’s so many, so many battles to fight, in a sense. That’s one that I’m not choosing to fight, with so many other things where my voice is needed. People are going to do what people want to do. And there’s nothing that you’re going to be able to do to stop them, per se. And so I’m trying to help where the need is and where I can.
There were some reports in the spring that Florida Democrats were recruiting you to run for Senate.
[Laughter] I heard that.
Have you ever been approached to run for office?
So describe to me what that approach was like.
I mean, it’s just conversation. “Hey, you would be good for,” “Hey, we can see you in,” “We would love to have you in.”
It’s things that I’m passionate about that I will speak out on and speak up for. And so I don’t play the politician games. I don’t know a lot about it.
But I also understand that I have a role as an American citizen and as a known person to be able to highlight and speak on things that other people may not be able to because they don’t have the opportunity to do this.
So you’re running.
Let me see if I can get you to be a little spicy. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the comments Paul Pierce has made comparing the two of you. He’s said a couple of different things. But one of the things he said — I’ll read the quote — “Put Shaq on my team. Put LeBron and Bosh with me. I’m not going to win one? You don’t think me, LeBron and Bosh, we’re not going to win one? We’re not going to win a couple?”
What was your reaction to seeing what Paul said about you?
I’m living rent-free right now.
I got so many things going on in my life. Comparing myself to someone who’s not playing or someone who is playing is definitely not on my to-do list. Listen, Paul Pierce was one of the greatest players that we’ve had in our game. And I think, you know, when you are a great player and you don’t get the attention that you feel like your game deserved, sometimes you’ve got to grab whatever attention where those straws are. And Paul believes he’s a better player than me. He should believe that. That’s why he was great. That’s not my argument, and I didn’t play the game to be better than Paul Pierce. I played the game the way I played it, and I made the sacrifices that I made. Everybody doesn’t want to sacrifice.
I’ve been able to be a star. I’ve been able to be Robin. I’ve been able to be part of the Larry, Curly and Moe, like, whatever. I’ve been able to be successful and great in all those areas.
It’s easy to say what you would do if you have a certain talent on your team, but you have to play with that talent. And that’s the hardest thing to do — to play with talent in different generations and different styles, which I was able to do.
What is it like to watch old highlights of yourself now that you’re 41?
I just got done watching a 2005-2006 edit. I think it was 45 minutes. I watched about 15 minutes. I walked away from that edit, and I was just looking at the way I played the game and I hooped.
Nowadays, we’ve got the kids. And I love what development is going on, but kids are working on their moves. I just reacted to defenders. My moves came from just reacting, and those are the moves that are being worked on and are being highlighted now. I just played the game of basketball just like I was back in Chicago playing with my uncles and my dad and my family.
So I love watching old highlights of myself because, just being honest, I haven’t seen a lot of people with my game and with my style. And so it was unique. And I’m thankful to have one of those games that no one can really understand how good I really was.
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