Growing Up ... Dwyane Wade

Cavs Future Hall of Famer Looks Back on His Early Days in the Windy City
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Growing Up ... Dwyane Wade

Cavs Future Hall of Famer Looks Back on His Early Days in the Windy City

Future Hall of Famer and the current catalyst to Cleveland’s stellar second unit, Dwyane Wade’s move to the bench three games into the season looks like an epiphany at the season’s quarter turn.

The 12-time All-Star is making an early push for Sixth Man honors and is one of the key reasons the Wine & Gold are the league’s hottest squad heading into Monday’s matchup with the Bulls.

As Wade returned to the Windy City with the Cavaliers looking to extend their win streak to a dozen games, sat down with the three-time Champ to talk about how the shape of his driveway shaped his game, how he got through his growth spurt and, of course, his first dunk(s) in today’s installment of Growing Up …

My family … all played basketball. My stepbrothers, my dad – we all played the game together, we enjoyed it together.

We’d play … in my back yard. My dad would put up whatever we had – could be a crate, could be a wooden backboard with a rim. Could be anything. We just enjoyed the game.

It was fun … growing up with your dad and your brothers all loving the same sport.

We played in a small driveway … and there weren’t a lot of angles to shoot. You couldn't really shoot because the house was in the way, so we did a lot of penetrating, driving, finishing around the basket.

That was the mentality … to play with that toughness. My dad was real aggressive and he would beat us up as we'd drive to the hoop and everything. So that was kind of just the way we played. That was in my DNA.

It wasn’t about … shooting back then. Shooting wasn't what was, in a sense, "popular."

It was more about … Chicago and that tough mentality. Guys from Chicago are like me: they go to the basket, they fall down, they get back up. A lot of guys were extremely athletic, liked to punish guys at the rim. You look at New York, you think ball-handling and crossovers. You look at Chicago, you think of guys that are gritty, tough.

I thought I was … a really good football player in high school – but I probably wasn’t. But I played a little football, yeah.

My main positions were … wide receiver and cornerback.

Could I have taken football … to the next step? Probably not. (I’m trying to be truthful with myself at 35!)

In my mind back then … I was the next Randy Moss. But in real life … no. There's a reason why basketball is my calling.

Dwyane Wade has scored in double-digits in a season-high 6 straight games (since 11/22: 15.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 25.5 MPG, .528 FG%, .545 3FG%)
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

But football is still … one of my first loves when it comes to sports, and to this day, I love Saturdays for college football because on Sundays with the NFL. There's nothing like it.

I chose basketball full-time … because I was just better at it. I was good at it.

You know when … you're good at something you just want to do it? I knew I was good at it and I knew I was better than most people that I played against. Obviously, not everybody, but I knew I was better than most kids, especially my age group.

When I was younger … my dad always made me play two groups up. So, when I was in 4th grade, I played on the 6th grade team, 6th grade to 8th grade, etc.

I had one major … growth spurt – around my freshman-sophomore year of high school. I was around 5-7, 5-8, and going into my junior year, I pretty much grew into where I am now.

That summer … where I just shot up, my knees were killing me. It hurt for a while over the summer and I had to miss a few AAU games because my knees were killing me from this growth spurt. But, all in all, it was obviously one of the best things to ever happen to me.

I’ve had so many … great mentors along the way, it’s hard to name just one.

"I shocked … myself; I shocked everybody in the park. We all celebrated."

Dwyane Wade reflects on his first dunk.

I guess the way I grew up …with my mom and my dad kind of going through their own journeys in life and not having a family where everyone's around and eats together where my dad worked 9-to-5 and things like that, your coaches become mentors, coaches become role models, they become father figures.

So for me … my high school coach, Jack Fitzgerald, became that. My assistant coach the high school, Gary Adams, was big -- coming to pick me up, take me to the gym to work on my game. And my college coach, Tom Crean, was huge in my growth and my development as a man.

I didn’t really know … I could take basketball to the next level until my freshman year in college. My freshman year of college, I red-shirted that year, and I went into the gym and started practicing with the guys … and I was better. And I knew. And I was like: 'Oh, this college?!'

So for me at that point, it was about … having that mentality and now focusing on my goal and where I want to go. But I had to put a lot of work in and I knew that I was raw. But I knew I was better than most guys at the university.

I definitely remember both …my first playground dunk AND my first game dunk.

The first REAL dunk … I ever had came playing outside back in the day, near my old high school. It was the summer that I grew – between my freshman and sophomore year.

We got a steal … and my little brother threw me a lob and I remember my older brother – (because we always played together) -- he was like, it was like slow motion, he was like: "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" -- and I went up and jumped as high as I could and I caught it and dunked it with two hands.

I shocked … myself; I shocked everybody in the park. We all celebrated.

And my first … dunk in a game came in my junior year.

It was in a Christmas tournament … and I got a steal and breakaway. And I went to the very corner of the rim and got a weak, one-handed dunk.

Everybody on my team … went crazy because you dunk in practice, but you don't really get the chance in the game.

So I finally got … my first in-game dunk. It was weak – but I got it! And after that I just started taking off. I just needed to get that first one out of the way.