Dwyane Wade Is in a League of His Own
From the basketball court to the boardroom, the retired NBA superstar is an entrepreneur on a mission to make the world a better place
September 6, 2022
Former NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade considers himself a connector. Whether it’s playing basketball, making wine in Napa Valley, hosting the game show The Cube, producing Emmy- and Oscar-nominated documentaries or creating a zero-alcohol beer with Budweiser, his various endeavors connect people with experiences that make them happy. (Well, except when their team loses, which didn’t happen too often during Wade’s sensational career.)
“Everything I’ve been part of has brought people from all over the world closer,” Wade says. “They cheer together or enjoy a great meal or bottle of wine together. It’s about coming together for a team or product you love.”
Wade, who won three NBA championships with the Miami Heat, retired in 2019 at the age of 37. Although considered over-the-hill in professional sports, Wade was still a beginner when it came to his career as an entrepreneur. After a much needed break (which coincided with the beginning of the global pandemic), Wade began expanding his already burgeoning portfolio of businesses into an empire that straddles entertainment, food and wine and philanthropy. “I’ve been finding my way these last three years since retiring,” he says, “from finding my voice to trying to find the businesses and people that I want to be associated with.”
Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union, has been supportive of his foray into entertainment, including his hosting gig on The Cube. The British hit game show, which was brought to America in 2021 by TBS, challenges contestants to endure seemingly simple physical and mental tasks—all while confined in “The Cube,” an intimidating glass box—in the hope of winning $250,000.
“Being a host is one of my favorite roles,” Wade says. “I love hosting dinners in the backyard. My wife is the exact same way. So when it comes to The Cube, I’m just bringing people into my home, which is the stage. And I’m getting to know them over a game, just like I would over a dinner. I don’t view at it as being a game-show host. It’s my job to bring out the excitement of this game and the excitement of the contestants—and connect them.”
Growing up in Chicago, Wade watched game shows such as Jeopardy!, Double Dare and Supermarket Sweep. “One of my favorites was a local show called The Bozo Show. I watched it every morning before I went to school. Kids had to drop a ping-pong ball into these buckets. If they got it into the sixth bucket, they won money. I remember thinking, Ooh, one day I’m gonna get on that and I’m gonna change my family’s life. Now, as a host on a game show, I get to see how it really changes the lives of the winners and their families. It’s special be on that side of the microphone.”
The Cube was so popular that TBS ordered a second season, which is airing in 2023. Wade is also executive producer of the show as part of his 59th & Prairie Entertainment company. In addition, he served as an executive producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary Shot in the Dark for Fox Sports with Chance the Rapper; partnered with Imagine Documentaries and ESPN on D. Wade: Life Unexpected, which chronicles his NBA career and life off the court during his final year in the league; and co-produced the Oscar-winning animated short film Hair Love.
Storytelling is a big part of who he is. In 2012, during the height of his NBA career, Wade wrote a book about fatherhood called A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball, which detailed the struggles he faced as a single dad to Zaire and Zion (now Zaya). Since then, he has had two other children, Xavier with Aja Metoyer and Kaavia with Union, and raised his nephew, Dahveon.
Both he and Union have been very open about their lives and parenting journey. In 2021, they penned the children’s picture book Shady Baby, inspired by Kaavia. The sequel, Shady Baby Feels, was released in August. Their daughter also motivated them to launch Proudly, a baby-care line for melanated skin. The products are co-designed by a dermatologist of color, who studied and selected ingredients to nourish melanated skin.
Another venture, Wade Cellars, launched eight years ago when the Olympic gold medalist turned his passion for wine into a business. Since then, the Napa-based company has taken off with both oenophiles and NBA fans. The flagship cabernet sauvignon is sourced from Napa’s most prestigious vineyards, while the Three by Wade wines offer an affordable entry to rosé, chenin blanc and cabernet sauvignon, sourced from sustainable vineyards throughout California’s wine regions.
“Growing up I dreamed of being in the NBA,” Wade says. “I didn’t grow up dreaming about being a part of the wine community. The wine industry didn’t seem accessible to the communities that I was part of. However, once I got an opportunity to start drinking wine, traveling to Napa and building relationships, I realized that it is a very interesting industry. I wanted minorities to know more about wine and enjoy it the way I do.”
Since then, other NBA stars have started their own labels, including Channing Frye (Chosen Family Wines), CJ McCollum (McCollum Heritage 91), Carmelo Anthony (VIN(N) The Seventh Estate) and James Harden (Jam Shed Wines). There’s also McBride Sisters, the largest Black-owned wine company in America.
“It’s no secret that minorities are trying to enter this industry, and there have been a lot of challenges with that,” Wade says. “The perception of wine is very stuffy and focused on science and chemistry. But the wine world is opening up, and we are going to continue telling stories, making great wine and allowing more of us to be able to walk through this door.” Wade recently joined the UC Davis Executive Leadership Board for the department of viticulture and enology to support their efforts in bringing more diversity to the wine industry.
Napa is only a car ride away from his Los Angeles residence, and Wade drives up to Wine Country several times a year. For the lifelong traveler, who spent 16 years of his NBA career on a plane zigzagging across the country, a six-hour drive isn’t daunting.
“Travel is everything,” he says. “It gives me an opportunity to be inspired by things that I don’t know about or see often. You can learn by traveling to different cultures and communities and watching others move through the world and realizing that your way is not the only way. I just came back from Scotland with my dad, and it was an amazing trip.” Wade’s favorite destination is Hawaii, where he and Union spend every Christmas and New Year. “My heart chakras are open and alive in Hawaii,” he says. “I’m really tapped into them, and when they feel good I know I’m in the right place.” Wade also enjoys regular trips to Italy, France and Spain. On his to-visit list are Thailand and Fiji. He’s a light packer whose essentials include candles, a linen brush and outfits he can multipurpose.
Wade was known as one of the most stylish NBA players, and he and Union continue to appear on the red carpet, including at this year’s Met Gala. They both wore Versace, she in a silver dress that featured a plunging neckline and long feathered train, while he sported a white suit, sans shirt, adorned with gold buttons and a large brooch and complemented by a black Versace walking stick.
“I love the self-expression of fashion,” Wade says, “the fact that my attitude or swagger, or the way people look at me, changes depending on what I wear on my body or what story I’m telling with the clothes I put on. Through fashion, you can express a little bit of your personality.”
Basketball is never far away, however. Wade recently bought an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz, and during team practices he sometimes drops in for a few drills, working his famous fadeaway for the younger players. “My blood boils when I’m around the game with the ball in my hand,” he says. “It’s my duty to pass on skills I’ve learned to the next generation who are trying to accomplish the same things.”
The 40-year-old also empowers people through his Wade Family Foundation, focusing on children and the LGBTQ community. “We partner with many different organizations and charities to make sure that we’re using our resources to help people in need in communities that have touched us, like Omaha, Milwaukee, Chicago, Miami and L.A. We try to go back into those places that helped us and do the work.”
And clearly Wade has been doing the work. He meditates every day and lives his life looking to be part of something bigger than himself. “That’s when you feel alive and connected,” he says. “That’s the real joy.”