25 Ocak 2008


Dwyane Wade drives a white Mercedes, video in the front, bass in the back. The car is lot-fresh, no stray cups, not a glint of dust on the dash. "I'm organized," he explains as he drives away from the Heat's players garage, seat belt snug. "My house. My clothes. Everything looks nice. Suits with suits. Ties with ties. Matched out. I don't feel like I can think in a sloppy environment."

Wade is big on thinking. Thinking and pursuing and bettering and, more to the point, capitalizing. "My business," he explains as he revs the engine and merges onto the causeway, "is to do as much as I can. Acting. Producing. Modeling. Clothing line. All that. Restaurants. I want to do it all. I want to go global." Already fast becoming a household name because of his winning Converse, T-Mobile and Gatorade ads-and because of the none-too-small detail of his being one of the best basketball players gracing the game-Wade has decided he wants to be a brand. It's a goal shared by his new agency, William Morris, a firm with the juice to fulfill one's thirst for commercial domination. "It's not that I want it all now," Wade clarifies. "It's that the opportunity is now."

And only a fool thumbs his nose at opportunity.


"I've always been really ambitious. As a kid, I always thought I could do more than people thought I could. I'm not the kind of person who likes to be in a box." So Wade has looked into acting classes and clothing design. He enlarges his vocabulary, one word a week. "Immaculate was one," he says. "Cohorts. Lethargic. As in, 'I've been busy trying to get this lethargic team back on track.' " He laughs. "My teammates knock me for it. I get a lot of jokes. But," he pauses and smiles, "they enjoy my commercials."

Wade was once overlooked-not ignored, but something worse: underestimated. Then came Miami and Pat Riley and the All-Star team and a championship, and then the whole world got to see who he knew he'd been all along. Baby MJ. Flash. King of the impossible. "My will is my greatest strength," Wade explains. "My will to get there. That's why I'm here now. I willed myself."

His coach agrees. "In the past five years I've been surprised," Riley says. "We knew he'd be good, but nobody knew he'd be this good. The year we won, he was the best player in the world. Unfortunately, he has to come all the way back now." The shoulder and knee injuries and the surgeries that followed last season are obstacles, but not a worry. "He's a warrior," Riley says. The only concern lies in the hunger, the focus. "He's going through a lot of changes in his life, from where he came from to this incredible success. I tell him he needs to learn to leave a little on the table. He can't gobble up all of life right now-all the endorsements, all the businesses. You have to be true to who you are, as a person and as a player. I tell him, your greatest refuge is the court, it's what got you here. Sometimes young players get away from themselves with all the stuff that comes at them." Wade respectfully disagrees: "From Coach's perspective, yeah, it looks like I have a lot going on. From my perspective, I want more. It's my life. I know what I can take on."

WE WANT him to be sweet. To be the down-home guy we read about. The church tither. The teetotaler. The abstainer. The one-woman man who marries his high school sweetheart, the only girlfriend he ever had. The man who continues to love her without hesitation, even as impossibly hot Lolitas throw themselves at him, their phone numbers inked on their Apple Bottom jeans.



We like that mythology: the pure athlete, the sainted chosen one. Who cares how unfeasible it is to be 25 and rich and famous and also good-infallible, even. To never stray, or get publicly drunk, or speed in traffic, or make any of the morally questionable decisions everyone else makes, even people who are not young or rich or famous. D-Wade is sweet. But he is not Sandra Dee. He is not a unicorn.

He also is not stupid. He knows enough to say basketball comes first, because for now it does. He understands too how much of his brand success is about an image: husband, father of two, tattoo- and felony-free. But no one is perfect. "Uh, 2007 ain't been the best year," Wade concedes, referring not only to his injuries and the Heat's play-uneven on the good days-but also to those rumors of marital discord. His own sublime skills have shown signs of rust as he continues to play his way back into shape. He recently missed a potentially game-tying three as time expired against the Pacers-"I knew as soon as it left my hands that it wouldn't go in"-and followed that with a 6-for-22 a couple of nights later. "I don't know why bad games happen. It's mysterious. From one minute to the next you can go from great to bad, and you have no idea why. When that happens, I say to myself, Slow down." Or he'll just play through it. "I'm going to shoot until I get out of it."

No one blames Wade for the Heat's record, not even Wade himself. Basketball remains, as ever, a team sport. But when the man Riley calls "our inspiration" is sidelined for most of a season and is unpredictable for the rest, he can get a little down. He hates how the team has been playing, hates that he can't resurrect the magic of seasons past. But he won't give up. The next game, he tells himself, will be different: "My confidence comes from my upbringing. Nobody believed in me. They said I'd never make it." He stopped paying attention to what people say a long time ago. "When you're young, you want to be famous. You want to be known. But having your personal business out there is not fun. I hear things, I read things and just laugh. Speculation is speculation. The thing that sucks about gossip is people believe it."

They believe your marriage is all but over. They believe you canoodle with actresses and models. They believe you are getting your freak on all over South Beach. Wade admits that he and his wife, Siohvaughn, are in a rough patch, that his marriage, like everyone else's, has its ups and downs. But no papers have been filed, and the couple is diligently trying to work things out. If they don't, they don't. Either way, he has nothing to hide.

Wade mulls his morphing reputation from pious to player, both wrongheaded formulations, by his accounting. He says: "A lot of people early on, I'd hear them say, 'Dwyane don't go out, he don't have a good time.' Now, I don't drink, I don't smoke, but I've always been a guy who likes to have fun."

Shouldn't he be at home reading his Bible? He grins. "Temptation is a part of life. I'm strong, but I'm not immune to the world." A minute passes. Another smile. "This high-profile life hasn't changed me," he says, a sentiment echoed by his teammates, family members and friends. "I don't worry about losing my way. I know that whatever happens, I can get myself back on track."

AT A meet-and-greet at Miami's Holtz Children's Hospital two weeks before Christmas, Wade, Alonzo Mourning and most of their teammates are handed red-and-green elf caps. "Tell Alonzo he's gonna need a bigger hat," Wade cracks as he puts his on, cocked to the side, beret-style. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," he starts crooning to no one in particular when a nurse wearing stuffed reindeer antlers spots him and squeals. As he approaches, she fans herself with her hands. "Oh, lordy! Oh, lordy! D-Wade! D-Wade!" He smiles and gives his cap to her, takes the antlers off her head and puts them on his. The nurse, crimson now, steadies herself on a desk as Wade struts away, checking his antlered reflection in the glass of the X-ray room. "It brings out my eyes," he says, winking.

The players amble through the halls, visiting pediatric cancer patients and their families. In many rooms, Wade is the only player who's recognized, but even he is anonymous when he stops to visit Precious, a 9-year-old patient. Precious is playing a video game, and Wade sits on her bed and asks to play too: "What is this game? Scooby-Doo?" Precious giggles and buries her face in her hospital gown. "Do I gotta save somebody up in here?" he asks. Precious shrugs, batting her eyes at him.

The next room belongs to Drew, an older boy unable to speak clearly. Drew's parents have made T-shirts with their son's name on the back for the visiting players. The father has a speech ready, about fighting the good fight, and as he makes it, his voice wavers. The players struggle to find a place to look, all except Wade. He stares at Drew's father, right into his twitchy, damp face, then at Drew himself, slumped and trembling in a wheelchair. Wade listens and nods, then takes the T-shirt and pulls it over his own. Drew's father watches. "Please, please play for my son," he begs, tears dropping. "Remember Drew." Wade nods slowly. "We will," he says. "You are a hero," Drew's father whispers as the two men hug.

After the visit, Wade tells a television reporter that the hospital visit "is always a tremendous joy" and that "anytime you can make a difference to kids, you want to do more." The nurses and doctors who watch beam. "He is so special," whispers one. "Not like the others." On the way to his car, Wade swipes a latex glove from a countertop and inflates it into a makeshift balloon. He lobs the glove at Mourning's head, giggling as he does.

Driving home, Wade considers his own childhood, on the South Side of Chicago, when everything he knew pointed to failure. "We didn't see anybody who was a success at anything," he recalls. "I'm at peace with my past now. Sometimes when I think about it, it doesn't even seem real, like it wasn't even my life." Wade and his siblings grew up with a largely absent father, a heroin- and coke-addicted mother, Jolinda, acute poverty and unebbing fear. "He was scared around people," says older sister Tragil, with whom Wade shared a room, a bed, even shoes.



"The gangs, the drug dealers outside-they could have influenced Dwyane," she continues. "But Mom tried to keep it away. She'd shut her door. And Dwyane always made my mom feel so good. He wasn't ever ashamed of her. He was always like, 'That's my mom,' putting his arms around her. If she could have covered him with a tent and protected him from life, she would have."

Of course, she couldn't. That duty fell to Tragil, who, after mothering Wade as long as she could, took him to his father's home by bus when he was 8, leaving him to a different sort of life, one that included work and discipline and expectations. "When I left him," Tragil recalls, "he looked at me and said, 'Why are you crying?' He didn't know." Nor did he know what his father, Dwyane Sr., had in store for him. "My father made me play basketball," Wade says flatly, recalling his days and nights in Robbins, Ill., where his family eventually settled. "He made me shoot on the court, rain, sleet or snow. Dribbling all the time. Made me watch it on TV. I resented it. I remember I used to love playing the game more when he wasn't around." In time, though, Wade came around. From adversity sprang love, for the game and his father. "He wanted to live his dream through me," Wade explains without rancor. "Simple as that."

His mother, now a pastor after getting clean in 2001, made her own lasting contribution. "She's been saying that my picture is bigger than basketball since I was 5," Wade explains. "She said I have a higher calling than sports. And I believe her."

MIAMI IS a woeful 6-15 the day before its first home game in more than a week. Practice over, Wade emerges wearing a T-shirt, nylon pants and a diamond earring big enough to block the sun. Tragil wants him to sign some paperwork. Mom is calling about a new building for her church. The Heat need a win like Amy Winehouse needs a comb. But Wade Inc. rolls on, a thousand unmet desires plucking at him. Wade stays cool, ignoring the hype, plotting his course. "We won a championship, and I wasn't satisfied," he says. "That day we won was great. But a couple days later, I was back to reality." Wade knows from reality. He's seen the bottom, up close, so he knows what is really at stake, how lucky he is. And like everyone who claws his way out, he wants to put as much distance as he can between the starting and the finish lines.

"My future?" he says. "It looks different than this. I'm gonna try acting. I'm going after Denzel. He's a 10, I'm a .5-but that's where I'm headed." King Kong ain't got nothin' on D-Wade. "No one can expect more out of me than I expect out of myself," he says. When asked if he'll ever be content, he is quiet. "You know what I want?" he says, finally. "I want people to look at me and see a good person. I don't want to be known as a great athlete. I want to be known as a great human being."

Mourning, friend and mentor, says he already sees the makings of that greatness. "He wows you, he really does," says the 37-year-old, whose season has since ended with a knee injury. "He's 25, but he carries himself like he's in his 30s. He's handled his fame maturely." Still, Mourning worries. "He takes stardom to a totally different level. Every time you turn on the TV, there he is. Billboards everywhere. I have deep concerns about him, because of society. They've put him on a pedestal, but the slightest mistake he makes, they'll be quick to make him headline news."

Wade remains unfazed. "The foundation of who I am hasn't changed," he says. "I've changed in that I've become more of a man, and I'm more outspoken now." Earlier this season he gave a public smackdown to Shaq, a dis the big man later said was deserved. "A few years ago I'd never have said anything," Wade says. "When I was younger, I was so shy that I'd be scared to ask for seconds at Sunday dinner."

Wade talks about how, as a young man, he'd fall asleep thinking about his goals, willing himself to dream about the NBA, hitting game-winners, playing on championship teams. And about how, before he knew it, all those dreams came true. "Sometimes I'm just driving my car and I think, I'm driving a Mercedes-Benz. Where I came from to a Mercedes-Benz-it's like a fairy tale." He exhales. "Looking back, I wish I would have dreamed a little more."

Don't misunderstand. Sure, he wants it all, because he had nothing, because there are holes to fill and hurts to smooth. But at the heart of this story lives basketball. Wade loves the sport like a woman: deep in the muscle, rattling and true. He penned a love letter to the game in the off-season: "You've had my heart since I first laid eyes on you."

"Basketball is more than a sport to me," he says. "It's my way out. My best friend. I get a feeling when I'm on the court, like I'm another person. I don't feel like Dwyane Wade. I feel like I matter." He falls silent again, then changes the subject. "You know who I love right now?" he asks. "McLovin, from Superbad. That guy is hilarious.

"I see all kinds of movies," he continues. "But I don't like sad ones. If I have a choice, I'm going to go for the happy ending."

kaynak : NBA