It didn’t take long for Dwyane Wade to get back on the court with NBA players.
The three-time champion and former Finals MVP—while remaining happily retired—recently held his second annual basketball camp for a host of up-and-coming NBA stars, including the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox, Suns guard Devin Booker, Bulls rookie Coby White, and many more. Dubbed “The Invitational,” the week-long gathering is a chance for Wade to workout hands-on with the next crop of NBA talent, and dispense the knowledge he’s learned both on and off the court.
“Once you do something two years, it’s nice, you get the tag annual and now it’s get to be a thing,” Wade told Sports Illustrated earlier this week. “For me, it was always about getting an opportunity when I was done playing the game, understanding what I have to give back to the game and the next generation of players, both as a player and as a businessman.”
Basketball and business are intertwined at The Invitational. The event is held at Stance’s basketball facility, a company with whom Wade has worked with for many years. Players went through drills during the day, then spent time together after the workout sessions to discuss their lives at pros.
In his conversation with SI, Wade discussed his motivation for the camp, why it’s important to connect with the next generation, and much more.
Rohan Nadkarni: I’ve been following The Invitational on Instagram and the first thing I noticed were the shirts that that say “The Invite” on them. Who designed those and how do I get one?
Dwyane Wade: Last year the camp was called The Blueprint. This year I wanted to change the name, so we called it The Invite. Last minute we had someone who does a lot of stuff for us, did a design of the shirt and get the shirts out. It was a quick turnaround. I think we got some extras somewhere.
RN: The older guys, whether it was Charles Barkley or whoever, were always getting on guys like you and LeBron for being too friendly. How important is it for you to show that there are different ways to be a steward of the game?
DW: Yeah, man. It’s just a shame that it was looked at that way. You just kinda respect the generations, man. It’s not only sports, it’s music, it’s acting, it’s so many things. Our generation was different then theirs, and this next generation is different from the one I came in. That’s just the way the world goes. To me, it doesn’t matter. The biggest thing is the game continues to grow. I don’t care how the game is played. How we played it was how we played it. And the game will forever be played different from the era we played in. For me, it’s always about being connected to the next generation. I love this game, I will forever love it, I just want to make sure I can give back for as long as I can.
RN: What impresses you the most about guys like De’Aaron Fox or Andrew Wiggins who are coming up in this next generation?
DW: Their love for it, more than anything. Their love for the game is highly evident. I love to be around guys that love it the same way I love it, no matter what age we are, no matter what background we come from. You see some of the photos from it, some of the videos, you see a lot of smiles. From young players who just got in to players like myself, who’ve retired. The smile is genuine. That’s the way that we connect.
RN: What’s something you wish an older guy had told you when you were early in your career?
DW: You know what, I don’t even know if they didn’t tell me. [Laughs] When you’re young, especially the way we came in, I don’t know if you listen to everything they said. You think a guy is old, I’m young, I’m this, I’m indestructible. You don’t really think about it. The vets may have told me some of the things that I’m telling the young guys that I wish I knew. What I wish I did do better myself, I wish I knew how to take care of my body a lot better, and in a different way. Injuries come, and you can’t do anything about them sometimes, but I wish I would have knew to take care of my body a different way that I learned toward the end of my career that I can pass down to some of the young guys.
RN: Any time you’re seen hanging out with other players, like Devin Booker or someone like that Heat fans like to say that you’re recruiting them to Miami. Do you ever pitch guys on joining the Heat?
DW: Never. I’ve never had to pitch a guy on Miami. I didn’t have to pitch Shaq, he came on his own. I didn’t have to pitch LeBron and Chris, it was more so about what we could do together, not necessarily where it was going to be at. If somebody reaches out to me, and asks me what I think, then I give them my spiel. But I’ve never had to pitch a guy on Miami. I think it’s just social media talk. It’s something for someone to write. It’s funny to me.
RN: Your son Zaire was at the camp and he was getting on the court with NBA players. What was it like for you to see him play with guys you played against in the league?
DW: It’s cool in a sense. You know how much work he has to do so you’re thinking about how can he get to that level of these guys. Also you want him to do more, you want him to work hard, all these things. The biggest thing I’ve been able to do is give my son the vision. If my son wants to be an NBA player, if he wants to win championships, if he wants to be an All-Star, if he wants to be an Olympic gold medalist, if he wants to do all these things, then I’ve given him the vision of someone who’s done it. And these are all the things you have to do. And from there it’s on him.
I love the fact that he’s out there able to play. It’s weird when I look at Delon Wright, who when his brother [Dorrell Wright] got drafted to Miami, he was 12 years old, and now he’s like a vet in the NBA. My son is trying to make it to the NBA, when I met Delon my son was two years old. It’s just weird to look at all these things and how far you’ve come.
RN: But are you just hoping he’s going to dunk on someone the whole time? Are you rooting for him?
DW: Yes, yes, I want him to. I can’t wait till he—hopefully he gets a little more athletic than he is now although he’s getting there. I would love for it. I love the game of basketball. Period. I get excited for people I don’t even know. So don’t let it be my own DNA, and think I’m not going to get crazy over something like that.
RN: What have you enjoyed the most about retirement?
DW: Just feeling complete. Everyone is different. Some people don’t think championships make their career. Some people don’t think All-Star games or Olympic teams make them complete. For me, besides an Olympic gold medal which I never really dreamed of, I wanted to be a champion. I needed that for my career to be complete. I needed to show the world who I was as a basketball player, I needed that time where I didn’t have help. I needed everything about the game and I feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to. With that being said, I walk away just smiling and happy with what I did in that phase of my life. I got so much more life left so now I’m focused on what can I accomplish in this life.
RN: I wanted to give you a chance to respond to this. Gabrielle Union went on TV and said you freaked out the first time you went to Old Navy. Is that true? What happened?
DW: Okay so, what I was freaking out about—if you want to call it freaking out—was the prices. I’m sure some guys do, but I got to a point, especially being so known in Miami—which is a good thing but at times when it comes to personal life stuff, it can be tough—where I hadn’t been to a store in so long. I had a chef to go shopping, a stylist to do this, all that. I don’t really go shopping, so I don’t really know the prices of stuff.
So I go into Old Navy and I start buying stuff. So I grabbed what I felt was like, [laughs], a lot of stuff, like it’s got to be $100,000. Not a $100,000 but just speaking in that sense. I got up to the register and it was like $500. I was like, “Holy s**t, I thought this was way more.” So I’m kind of freaking out about that kind of stuff. And just to be able to be in L.A. and go shopping and nobody notices me was a cool experience. I never thought I would say that 16 years ago when I wanted people to notice me. Now I’m going places hoping people don’t, so I can enjoy myself and not have anxiety or anything.
RN: Are you going to be in Space Jam 2?
DW: No. [Laughs]
RN: If LeBron called you tonight and said he needs 11 minutes a night, what would you tell him?
DW: That I can’t do it, but I’m sure there’s somebody in the NBA highly capable. But it’s not me.
RN: What do you hope to take away for yourself by doing The Invitational every year?
DW: That’s a great question. If you’re someone who gives back to others, whether it’s from a charity perspective or not, if you can change someone’s day or change someone’s life, selfishly that makes you feel good. Of course you’re doing it from the kindness of your heart, but selfishly it makes you feel good inside. It makes me feel good to know I can give something back to the next generation. Some of these players are going to be better than me. Some of these players are going to be Hall of Famers. If somebody says “Dwyane Wade taught such and such these things,” they’ll be like, “Why? He’s way better than Dwyane Wade was.” But to be able to have an affect on the game, and help them think about the game and life in a different way. Anybody who reaches out to me, the same way I do for my son, I will get you all the information that I’ve gathered. And I’ll hope you’re bigger, better, faster, stronger than I was. That’s the goal.