In many ways, basketball superstar Dwyane Wade leads a double life. On the court, he’s a NBA mega-star for the Miami Heat, but off the court, he’s a hands-on single dad to his two young sons and a nephew.
The moms at school drop off didn’t know what to make of him at first.
“I was like one of the only dads,” Wade says with a smile. “Everybody was looking at me, it was kind of weird. They called me ‘Mr. Mom’ for a while.”
It’s an apt nickname for a man who’s on a mission to bring back a bedrock American value: family.
Wade is reaching out to fathers and sons through community groups and his non-profit organization, Wade’s World Foundation,to combat the jaw-dropping statistic that 72 percent of African-American kids are being raised by a single parent, mostly women.
Even President Obama asked Wade to become a kind of ambassador-at-large for fatherhood.
“We as men have to get back on the line and raise our families to make sure that this country will continue to strive by raising great kids,” he said.
Though critics might charge that’s easy for an NBA superstar with a mega-contract, Wade has a quick reply.
“It is not about the money I have or don’t have,” Wade said. “It is about the time I am willing to sit down across the table from my kids and if they don’t get something right, helping them get it right.”
And given that half of all marriages end in divorce, Wade believes in co-parenting.
Although he won custody, after a bruising three year court battle, Wade is determined to let his kids know they have two loving parents, a lesson he draws from his own fractured childhood.
Dwyane Wade talks to Juju Chang about lessons of parenting.
In fact, he learned a lot about parenting from the mistakes his own mother made as he was growing up on Chicago’s rough south side.
“I got deeper into dark drugs alcohol abandoned building the homeless lifestyle, you name it” said Dwyane Wade’s mom, Jolinda Wade.
“And if she didn’t come home, I’d go upstairs and I couldn’t go to sleep,” said Dwyane Wade. “Not knowing whether my mom was going to be alive from day to day.”
Dwyane Wade went to live with his dad, Dwyane Wade Sr., who taught him how to play basketball and how to be a man.
He earned a scholarship to Marquette University, as his mom worked hard to get off drugs.
Once clean, Jolinda Wade decided to pay her debt to society and turn herself in to serve out an old jail sentence.
“That was tough,” said Dwyane Wade. “It was one of the worst days of my life. She said, ‘Son, I gotta go back to jail, I gotta do what’s right’ and that hurt, I cried.”
That’s when Dwyane Wade told his mother that she was his hero.
“That’s all I needed. Oh my God I can do this,” said Jolinda Wade. “Because I was his hero, isn’t that something?”
She walked out of jail, into the open arms of her family.
Finding God and Starting Over
Jolinda Wade found the bible behind bars and soon developed a following by sharing the story of her struggles.
Dwyane Wade went on to become a first round draft pick for the Miami Heat and led his team to a NBA championship and won a MVP title.
And yet when you ask Jolinda Wade what about her son makes her most proud, she doesn’t hesitate to say “he’s a good father to his boys.”
Dwyane Wade: A ‘Momma’s Boy’
But Dwyane Wade isn’t just a dedicated dad, his mom says jokingly, he’s a momma’s boy.
Dwyane Wade said he saw the hope his mother gave people by preaching.
He wanted to make sure she could continue to give people that hope, in a place that she called home.
So, Dwyane Wade, the kid who wasn’t sure if his mother was going to make it home, bought her a church.
New Creation, on Chicago’s south side, gives food packages, clothes, even Dwyane Wade’s shoes away.
Jolinda Wade said her son didn’t just buy her a building, he gave people in that community a great gift.
“Because of his generosity of the heart ” she said. “You’re housing people you’re giving people a place to come and to get hope. You’re feeding people you’re clothing people. There’s so much that he’s doing and his body isn’t even here.”
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