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Sportsman of the Year: DWYANE WADE
December 11, 2006
Is there an athlete with more positive energy than the 24-year-old guard? He pulled the Heat out of a deep playoff hole, helped put the shine back on a tarnished league and lifted his mom out of her own personal hell
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December 11, 2006

Sportsman Of The Year: Dwyane Wade

Is there an athlete with more positive energy than the 24-year-old guard? He pulled the Heat out of a deep playoff hole, helped put the shine back on a tarnished league and lifted his mom out of her own personal hell

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That day, Dwyane says, changed everything. In late 2003 Jolinda began studying to become a Baptist pastor and in June '05 qualified for her license to preach (she will be officially ordained next month). Dwyane, by then completing his second NBA season, had bought her a house near his outside Chicago, talked to her daily, became stronger spiritually under her guidance. "Once the breakthrough came, so many positive changes happened in him," Siohvaughn says. "It really was like a domino effect. His reverence for God, for family; his priorities kind of shifted. It's not that he wasn't still driven, but his foundation was built all over again."

Jolinda says she has been clean for five years now and counting. "It wouldn't be fair to say 'That Thing' don't come back and talk to you," she says. "Alcohol comes back, heroin's voice comes back, and they all run together. But it's what you do with the voice when it comes. I don't listen to it today." And when Wade sees his mother preaching, when he sees what she has become after years of wandering lost? More than the NBA title, the individual awards, the fame and the money, that sight means the most to him. She is his hero.

That's why, for Dwyane and all the Wades, a miracle isn't some tale of the supernatural. It's real. It has a face. Even Crean, the Marquette coach, realized that when he saw mother and son hugging and crying in the empty locker room at Bradley Center after the big win over Cincinnati. Crean went off to address the media, and as he was finishing Wade appeared. No one else there knew Jolinda's story, but Dwyane hadn't hustled her out a backdoor. No, head high, Dwyane had his right arm around his mother's shoulders and held her hand with his left. Everyone turned to look. "He wanted to show his mother off," Crean says now. The coach felt his eyes filling. He rushed out, hoping no one would see.

On a cool Thursday afternoon in November, Dwyane and Tragil and Siohvaughn are sitting at a long table inside a gymnasium at the Miami Rescue Mission, flanked by Heat teammates and their spouses. Overtown now has some of the marks of Englewood then: Bleary-eyed men walking zigzag, sad-looking buildings, an emptiness that feels like a threat. But on this day the crowd is moving in orderly lines, women mostly, some weary, some defiant and proud, as the world champions hand out Thanksgiving turkeys. At one point Dwyane rises from his seat and wades into a pack of screaming children. He picks up one girl, her hair in white-beaded braids, and squeezes her close as she tucks her face into his shoulder.

When he comes back Dwyane exchanges stories with Tragil about their own days like this, lining up with their grandmother in church or at a grocery store, so excited to be getting something, anything, they didn't have at home. "It takes me back," he says. "It always does."

The day after Miami had drafted her brother with the No. 5 pick in June 2003 and Dwyane had taken his first trip on a private jet, Tragil was in his suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Biscayne Bay taking pictures, staring at little islands in the turquoise water far below. There had been a whirl of meetings and handshakes and a flood of information about his new team and town, but finally they were alone. "Dude," Tragil said slowly, as if trying out the words, "you're going to be a millionaire."

Dwyane blinked. "Say that again."

"You're going to be ... a millionaire."

"Oh, my God."

Before the Heat, Wade's only other employer had been a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Robbins. His first check was for $120. His first NBA check? "50-something thousand dollars," he says. "You know how you go home and lie down on the couch and watch TV all day? I was looking at my check all day, just sitting and looking at it. A lot of thoughts were going through my head, like, Man, my father didn't make this in a year, maybe even two. I'm making this in just a two-week span?"

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