By MATT TREBBY
The day Dwyane Wade left Milwaukee in 2003, after announcing he would skip his senior season of eligibility to enter the NBA Draft, was the day his life changed forever.
“That seems like a long time ago. The day I announced I was leaving, things started to go fast. It seems like forever ago.”
It doesn’t for Marquette fans, and it shouldn’t. Players like Wade don’t come around very often.
The 2003 First Team All-American is now a two-time NBA Champions, a gold medalist, and soon to be a best-selling author.
His new book, “A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger than Basketball,” does talk about his on-court achievements, but focuses on his battles off of it as well.
While at Marquette, Wade’s mother, Jolinda, was put in jail for repeated drug abuse and dealing. She served as a minister while in prison between 2002 and 2003, and was ordained by the church in 2007. The first game she ever saw her son play was in March of 2003, when Marquette, led by Wade, beat Cincinnati at the Bradley Center to clinch the Conference USA regular season title.
In the book, Wade admitted even his mother will learn a few things about his childhood, and what he had to go through while his mom was dealing with her demons.
“My mom probably heard some things she didn’t know I knew,” Wade said. “My mom didn’t think I’ve ever seen her shoot up. But as a young kid, I saw it all the time.”
Having always been open about Jolinda’s past, Wade had no problem sharing his childhood experiences with her in the book.
“I’ve talked about the situation with my mom since I’ve been in the NBA,” Wade said. “It doesn’t matter how many times you talk about it. You get emotional because a lot of times it feels like I’m looking at someone else’s life but it is mine.”
In March of 2011, Wade was awarded sole custody of his children from his ex-wife, Siohvaughn. Wade and Siohvaughn were high school sweethearts who married in 2002. They had their first son, Zaire, on February 4th, 2002, and their second, Zion, was born on May 29th, 2007. They divorced in 2007.
Judge Renee G. Goldfard in Chicago said in her ruling of the custody battle that Siohvaughn “embarked on an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them.”
Since then, Wade has sued his ex-wife for defamation after she made false allegations against him in 2009. Those charges were dropped after Siohvaughn withdrew the claims.
During this season’s NBA Finals, Wade was also going through another custody battle with his ex-wife. Siohvaughn reportedly refused to return the two boys to Wade over this past Father’s Day weekend. Because of this, she now has to travel to Florida to spend any time with Zaire and Zion, instead of them coming to her.
While Zaire and Zion might not fully understand what their father went through right now, Wade says they were one of the main reasons he wrote the book.
“One day when they get to go back and read about their grandma, they dad, their aunties, and their upbringing, and how I got to this point,” Wade said. “But also they get to read about the decision I had to make in the process of getting divorced and going for custody.
“One thing I am with my kids is I’m very open and I’m very honest. There’s going to come a point in time where they’re going to understand things a little differently.”
Wade does tell the story of his basketball journey, as well, going into great detail about how he became eligible at Marquette with the help of former Golden Eagles head coach Tom Crean.
Illinois State and Marquette were Wade’s final two schools. While he was academically ineligible to play his freshman year, Crean still encouraged Wade to come to Milwaukee and focus on getting his grades up so he could finally hit the court.
The two still have a very close relationship, and Crean still goes down to Wade’s fantasy camp every year to help out. It was there that Crean got the book from Wade, who said the coach was thankful for Wade’s depiction of him.
“I think he’s appreciative of the words I said of him, but I think he knew that,” Wade said. “He was along there the journey of my life, a very important part of my life. More than anything he’s proud of me of being a role model and not being afraid to express myself and to help others. “
Knowing he is a role model to many people of all ages around the world, Wade wanted to tell his story to the world so others can see what he went through on his way to success. He says it’s his “job” as a role model to let people know that he’s overcome plenty throughout his life.
“I was really focused on helping someone else in the same situation I’m in,” Wade said. “As a role model, you have kids that look up to you. You have adults that look up to you, as well. If I can give them the confidence and hope in certain situations in life, them I’ve done my job as a role model.
“I felt that sharing my life experiences, sharing things I’ve been through, my successes and my failures, that can help kids out that when I talk to them they might see Dwyane Wade now, and say ‘Oh you don’t know what I’m dealing with.’ In that sense, it’s kind of like talking to them and saying ‘I’ve been there before.’”
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