Dwyane Wade Q&A: Heat star talks fashion, branding and Harvard
Dwyane Wade wants to be known as more than just a basketball player. It is written into the bio on his Instagram feed, where the words “It's way bigger than basketball” lie. As his career winds down, Wade is flourishing off the court and preparing for what is next in his life. After the season ended last year, Wade enrolled in a class at Harvard Business School, where he studied the business aspects of entertainment and sports. He did this while also serving as a guest analyst on ESPN during the NBA Finals.
And while he has developed one of the most respected personal brands in the league, Wade believes there is always room to learn more. He has shown that he is not afraid to take risks. He refined NBA style post Allen Iverson era and ran away with it. As he took the critiques, guys like Russell Westbrook, Nick Young and countless others followed suit and stepped into the fashion world.
A man of varied interests, when Wade is not designing a sock collection with Stance, he is working on his sneaker collection with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning. If that is not enough, he now owns his own Wine label and has a TV show with his wife, Gabrielle Union, set to appear on HGTV in the not so distant future. To sum it all up, he is the most interesting man in the world. We caught up with Wade and discussed his Harvard trip, building his brand and life after basketball.
Jarrel Harris: You are becoming a regular on Harvard’s campus. How did this relationship with the school come about?
Dwyane Wade: Last year when the season was about to end, I started to look at some of the things I wanted to do for the summer and one of the things was to educate myself a little bit more in business. A friend of mine, Brandon Marshall (New York Jets) went to this course at Harvard and told me about it. He sent me the book of the professor and told me I should read it, and if I liked it, it is something I should look into. I read her book “Blockbusters,” and I wound up taking the course. The course covered the business of entertainment, media and sports. I was just trying to learn more about the kind of world that I am in.
JH: When did your business mindset change? Was there a specific time when things just clicked for you?
DW: For me it was right after I got divorced and got custody of my kids. I had to grow up a little faster after that. I was about 25 at the time when me and my ex-wife split. I had to grow up, and I had to start looking at things different. I had to start looking at my financials differently. I’ve had some injuries in the NBA which made me think about “What if I don’t have basketball”. I’ve always had interests in other things. It was just when I was young, I just never had the right team around me to help put me in position for me to do those kind of things. Once it all came together at the right time, it made it easier to do what I wanted to do and now I am able to do it.
JH: In terms of business, who are some former or current players you have looked up to?
DW: When you think about former players, the biggest one for me is Magic Johnson, who I have a relationship with. I have been to his office multiple times and have asked him many questions. He has given me advice on how he did this, and how he did that and how he became so successful. He is probably one of my biggest role models when you look off the court in the game of basketball for sure. And current players, I have relationships with guys and have had teammates who are into a lot of things and very smart on investments. Mike Miller, a former teammate of mine, is very good at it. James Jones, who is not a guy who has made max dollars but has done a really job at investing and things of that nature. Caron Butler was a teammate of mine who has done some amazing things and continues to grow his brand. Udonis Haslem. There are so many guys you get to know who are doing other things besides basketball.
JH: You recently made a return to Harvard’s campus and said you want the Wade brand to be like Wal-Mart? Can you explain more what you mean by that?
DW: (Laughs) Yeah, man, you know I have a lot of different things with my name on it. I have socks, I have underwear, ties and all of these different things and I want it to be a one-stop shop. I want the Wade brand to be able to carry all things like Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a one-stop shop that carries everything, and I would love to be that kind of brand.
JH: You are going to flip houses on a TV show. You have your own Wine label. Is there an industry you haven't explored yet that you want to want to dive into?
DW: I am sure there is. But right now, I am good, man, I have my hands full right now with everything I'm doing away from basketball. It keeps me very busy, but there is always something. There is always another market or something we don't know about that we haven't tapped into. And I learned a lot about that talking to Magic. There are so many different things you haven't thought about for ways to make money or to make a career out of. So I keep my mind open but keep my ears to the streets as well to see what’s next and what is something on the rise.
JH: Not too many athletes go the wine route. What intrigued you about going into the business and starting your own label?
DH: I’ve always tried to do things my own way and to be different. For me, I am not a big drinker. I don’t drink tequila or anything like that on a regular basis. I am a celebratory drinker, but when it came to wine, you can serve it with a meal over a conversation with friends. I kind of just got into it and I wanted to explore the industry more. I wanted to find something to call my own. It is something I use for entertainment. I got into it three years ago, and I am surprised at where it has grown to already. The possibilities of where it could go from here is amazing. It is just a different kind of level of being a gentleman and something different. I want to introduce more African-Americans to it and more people in the sports world as well to learn.
JH: You have partnerships with apparel brands like Li-Ning and Stance. How much input do you give when creating a collection?
DW: The one thing that I have done is hire my stylist as the creative director of my whole design team. So everything involved in the design process, I put her in charge of and we have a team of people we kind of all sit around and throw around ideas. We kind of talk about what we’ll like to see that is not in the market space and we come up with those ideas on boards and we figure it from there. We talk to the brands we are partnered with and we kind of see what they're doing and what they want to do and where we could go with things and we just explore from there.
JH: What could you tell us about the Way of Wade 5’s?
DW: The Way of Wade 5’s, I am liking the direction right now we are going in. I actually practiced with them today for the first time, and I got a lot of good feedback from my teammates. You always look for that feedback from your teammates first. But I like the direction we are heading in. I think we finally got to see some of my identity in the Way of Wade 4, and I think the 5’s are just taking off some of that same identity in terms of where we are with the the materials we are using. I am excited about the WOW 5 and believe it is going to be better than the 4’s and will try to continue to keep growing.
JH: What is some business advice you tell the younger guys on the team like Hassan Whiteside and Justice Winslow?
DW: The biggest thing is to find what you are interested in. Don’t do a lot of things just because of the dollar amount. First of all, find something to do that YOU are interested in. Make sure that if you do get into it business wise, make sure to cover your back. You have to make sure you have people you trust to look over it and go through it and make sure that you are signing something that is legit. Just enjoy it and that is why you need to find something that is authentic to you.
JH: How serious are you about becoming a basketball analyst after your playing are over? You seemed very comfortable last year?
DW: (Laughs) I don't know, man. First of all, I had a great time working with Doug Collins, Jalen [Rose], and Sage [Steele]. They were amazing. The whole ESPN team made me feel comfortable, and I just wanted to do it because I am that kind of guy that if a door is open I have a saying that I am most likely going to walk through it. Doesn't mean it is for me. Doesn't mean it is not. But I am going to try to walk through it. And I had fun. I tried to share my experiences from playing the game of basketball but we will see. I have no idea. It was just something I wanted to add to the to-do list and cross it off and I was able to do that. If something comes from it then I will continue.