Without basketball as therapy, Dwyane Wade took careful approach to life in retirement (2024)

Lori NickelMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

It was good to see Dwyane Wade around Milwaukee and the suburbs a couple weeks ago. Not just because he’s NBA royalty, having won three NBA championships and produced 13 all-star seasons. Or because in three short years here he put Marquette University men’s basketball back among the elites.

It was good to see that ready smile and easy conversation that always has been a part of Wade’s personality, because with all the success and fame that has been life-altering for him, the truth is that many professional athletes struggle in their post-playing days. Struggle with their happiness, with their purpose, with where they belong in the world looking ahead.

In 2019, after 16 seasons, Wade hung up his No. 3 jersey with the Miami Heat and proclaimed his career over. He was just 37.

“I was old. I was olldddd,” Wade said recently.

In that world, yes, but in the real world, 37 is so young. The average surgeon is 48 years old. Chief executive officer, 51. A state governor, 62.

Dwyane Wade sought help adjusting after retirement from NBA

A year into retirement, Wade spent six months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 “just chilling.” He said his body, which had been riddled with injuries during his playing career, was still hurting. He kept busy with his family and tried to tap into interests “that I didn’t have time for while putting together a Hall of Fame career,” he said.

“Still, even though I had a lot of things going on in my life? I felt like I had nothing going on, too,” Wade said. “One of the first things I did right away was put myself into therapy.

Wade knew a lot of pros who retired before him and saw the good, but also the struggle. He didn’t hesitate to seek expert advice on how to move on with his life.

“Basketball was therapy; that was where I could go and get all of my emotions out,” Wade said. “Without basketball I have no place to put those emotions. I know those emotions go on to the ones you love, the ones that are closer to you. I didn’t want to put those emotions – that negative energy – onto my family.

“I started really getting into meditation. I really take care of my wellness. Tapping into one’s self first before you give energy out to people all day. Good or bad. You’ve got to recharge your own battery. My battery is recharged through my own meditation, self-awareness. Yoga. I do all of it.”

Now 41, Wade looked genuinely happy and energized being around former Marquette teammate and roommate Travis Diener in July for a series of charity outings and events that they created (called Wade vs Diener). It is likely that none of the 75 girls in attendance for their basketball camp in Mequon had too much knowledge about the résumé of their coach. And that was kind of perfect. That reality is something pro athletes must contend with; life marches on.

Wade has a foundation. A winery. He's a two-time autobiographic writer and an author of a children's book. He's a film producer and game show host in the entertainment industry. A basketball analyst. A clothier in the fashion industry. Franchise owner in a restaurant. Business owner with his wife, Gabrielle Union.

Living the dream leads to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for Wade

But on Aug. 12, Wade will be immortalized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Wade calls it the highest honor.

“I look at ‘Trav,’ I look at Steve Novak. I look at Rob Jackson. And the guys that have been on the journey with me. I’m going into this Hall of Fame – and everyone is taking pride in it,” Wade said. “I’m representing teammates, fans of mine around the world, my parents– my dad who worked his butt off to make sure I was a good basketball player. It’s for them.

“Me? I can’t believe that it’s me getting awarded. Not because I wasn’t good at basketball; I remember being that kid.”

Same. The first impression of Wade was when he made an oral commitment on Nov. 2, 1999 to play for Tom Crean at Marquette over his hometown school, DePaul. Back then, too many of us didn’t even know how to spell his first name right, and Wade was too sweet to correct us.

He was just 17 when, on a Friday night that winter of his senior year at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Illinois, he stood out already. It wasn’t just his physical gifts, it was his heart and hustle. He was behind the three-point line when he went bounding inside the lane for an offensive rebound. And he might have been the only one in the world besides Crean who knew exactly what he had in him.

“Basketball was all I had,” Wade said. “Besides, obviously, my family.”

Wade put this in his high school yearbook when the question was asked: In 20 years what are you going to be?

“I said, ‘In 20 years, I’m going to retire from the NBA,’” Wade said. “’As one of the greatest players ever. And spend time with my family.’

“I had a vision for myself. I was willing to work and along the way I had amazing people put in my life – my dad, Tom Crean, Jack Fitzgerald at Richards – to help me reach levels that I was not able to reach on my own.

“It’s weird living in the dream.”

Dwyane Wade Part 1: 'A we-have-to-get-him type of mentality': The oral history of Dwyane Wade at Marquette

Dwyane Wade Part 2: 'Players know when somebody is different': The oral history of Dwyane Wade at Marquette

Dwyane Wade Part 3: 'Yo, you are a lottery pick': The oral history of Dwyane Wade at Marquette

Dwyane Wade Part 4: 'He's like a family member': The oral history of Dwyane Wade at Marquette

Without basketball as therapy, Dwyane Wade took careful approach to life in retirement (2024)
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