Think back to where you were when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were making their first run at a three-peat in the early 90s. Where were you? Do you remember? That time is certainly something Dwyane Wade certainly will never forget. The future Hall-of-Famer was in Chicago, not even a teenager yet, living in his mother’s home that would consistently get raided for drugs. One particular day he couldn’t escape from the police to his grandma’s house in time. An officer put a gun to the back of his head and asked him to lead him to Wade’s mom. She would spend two years in jail for drug possession.
After this introduction of Wade’s 10-year documentary in the making, D.Wade: Life Unexpected, it seems so out of place for someone that made life look so easy on the court. It’s impossible not to think what if that officer pulled that trigger. We wouldn’t have seen one of the best shooting guards of all time. There’s only been two better in the history of the NBA. That’s the greatest of all time in MJ and the guy who worked harder than anyone to be like Mike, the immortal Kobe Bean Bryant.
The movie Boyhood comes to mind while watching this doc. Wade started filming home movies and video diaries in 2010 and so much of that footage is included here. It feels like we are watching him grow up right in front of our eyes. This documentary airing on Sunday February 23 at 9pm ET on ESPN is part of a larger ‘L3gacy Celebration’ tribute weekend to the legend. On Friday, NBA players reflected on the best moments of his career and on Saturday his number 3 was forever retired in American Airlines Arena in Miami. What a fitting finale this documentary is.
Sure, on the surface this is a table stakes telling of his life. The triumphs, trials and faults are all here. That alone would make this an enjoyable documentary. What makes this story stand out is that we get to see many of Wade’s reactions in the moment. We get to see his immediate reaction to LeBron Jame’s infamous decision to take his talents to South Beach. We get to see him reminisce about how his dad wanted him to be in a rap group and how that came full circle at the end of the doc to be rapping on a song with Miami’s own Rick Ross. We get uncomfortably personal when Wade signs with his hometown Bulls in free agency and the bitterness of a Miami marriage dissolving. Not to mention the dissolution of his first marriage to his high school sweetheart.
But there is more important moments that go so much deeper than basketball. We get to go behind the scenes of Wade’s ESPY’s speech speaking out on gun violence. Seeing a different side of Wade in his childhood, gives a more important context of him coming back home to Chicago. It felt necessary that he went back home for more than basketball. He’s lived this reality and there are few with a better platform than D. Wade. Maybe the most important moment comes when he talks about his daughter Zaya and the pride on his face when she comes out and expresses who she really is.
The evolution feels complete at this moment. Before Wade was surviving in a cruel environment. All he could ever think about was basketball. Because that was his ticket out in a world that always doubted him. He was never perfect, but he became more and more like his style of play. Selfless. No one gave up more to win like Wade in the 2012 season when he handed the keys to LeBron to win it all. That mentality has followed him into his life after basketball. Because the best thing we get to do is make the future brighter for the ones we love.
Wade may forever be that kid from Robbins, Illinois but it’s that boy who grew up in Miami-[Wade] County that will be an inspiration for generations to come and it’s an invaluable moment to even get a glimpse behind those curtains. Even if this doc was a shallow ostentatious attempt to flatter Wade, it would be worth it. If we’ve learned anything about Kobe’s passing, it’s that we need to give the flowers while they can still smell them. There may be a lot of similarities between Kobe and D. Wade on the court but the most transcending similarities come with their passion for their family and making the most impact in their lives after the game they love so much is over. This documentary is an excellent introduction to a second-life already making a monumental impact.
D. Wade: Life Unexpected premieres at 9pm ET Sunday on ESPN; The documentary will then be available on demand on the ESPN channel in your guide.