The Power of Sports: A Fatherhood Bond Grounded on Stories of Dwyane Wade

Commentary

My son was born in 2003. I didn’t know him in 2003 and I didn’t meet him until 2010, but he is my son. He doesn’t share my last name. He doesn’t carry my blood. But I dare you or anybody else to tell me he isn’t my son.

If you didn’t know us or know our history, you probably would think he was my son. We share facial features. He is light-skinned, with a broad nose. His eyes are sleepy like mine. And I haven’t met a stranger yet that questioned our lineage.

His younger brother? It’s even easier. We both like superheroes and we both like Legos. I see him, with his behavioral opportunities and his anxiety issues, as a kindred spirit. I don’t think there is a human being on this Earth better equipped to lead him through a troublesome childhood into adulthood than me.

I’ve been there. The awkwardness, the relentless anxiety – these are the things that formed me.

But my older boy? His older brother? What am I to do with a sixth grader that already stands 5-foot-8 and wears a size 11 shoe?

A superb athlete with the speed and guile that has caught the attention of every coach and league coordinator that he’s played for. I don’t know that life. In sixth grade, I barely stood 5-foot tall. I was almost 200 pounds and my athleticism had escaped me.

What do I have in common with this young man that looks to me for guidance?

Basketball. This is what we have. This is what binds the two of us outside of our similar features. Not the ability to play, no, he is far better than I am already. He has the ball handling skills, coordination and jump shot that I’ve never had. He’s never beat me one-on-one, though. I won’t let that happen.

But what I lack in skill, I make up for in old man strength. The day he beats me will be a hallmark for him as it should be. I don’t understand fathers who “let” their kids win. Especially, not at something they want to be great at – but that’s another conversation for another time.

This story is about Dwyane Wade.

My older son’s favorite basketball player is Dwyane Wade. While his friends adore Lebron James and Stephen Curry, my son is defiant in his love for that washed-up fossil.

Why? Because I’ve told him for six years that Wade is amazing. And he trusts me, because he loves me, so he loves Dwyane.

The entire time I’ve known my son, LeBron has loomed large over the Heat franchise. He doesn’t remember Wade leading the Heat in 2006 or Wade winning a scoring title.

He knows Wade as a sidekick; Lebron’s buddy. But despite that, Dwyane is his guy. This past Christmas, his only request was a Dwyane Wade jersey. I’ve heard him get teased by his contemporaries about it, but he ignores it. His dad’s favorite player wears number 3 for the Heat and you can eff off about it.


May 24, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (right) and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) both take a breather during a game against the Miami Heat in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So, on Friday night, as I called my son into the living room to watch the end of Game 6 between Charlotte and Miami, I watched as his unwavering loyalty was rewarded. He finally got to see Dwyane Wade, on the biggest stage, without the crutch of another Hall of Famer.

He finally had the chance to see Wade at the end of a tough possession, with three minutes to go, hit a long 3-point shot. The kind of shot Wade has made a career off of, but my son has seen precious little of.

I watched his eyes light up. Wade hit a “Steph Curry” shot. The kind of shot he could take to school as witness of his favorite player’s greatness.

As much as I was focused on a Heat win, it was even more fun to watch my son see Wade in all of his glory. There were no analytics experts in his ear telling him Wade’s shooting percentage from three. There were no Twitter coaches designing fantasy plays in his way.

There was just a young man and his idol. There was our bond. We were two fans – father and son – sharing a moment.

With fifty seconds left, Wade hits a step back 3-pointer to put the Heat up by 5. My son’s mouth is open, he can’t believe it. We share a high five and a chest bump. It’s lit.

In this moment, there are no advanced or clutch stats. There is only a young man, his father and “hero ball” in the most flattering sense of the term.

Because we were all young once, no? Many of us were introduced to basketball and sports by our fathers. They told tales of the greats.

To this day, my favorite player of all time is Magic Johnson. Why? Because I saw him play at his peak? No, because my father told me tales of his greatness.

This is why we love sports. This is why my son and I love basketball. The uncommon feats of a mortal man that defy the odds and the numbers. An appreciation of a man’s greatness that can be passed down through generations.

But Friday night, we moved beyond stories. We moved beyond tales of 2006 and YouTube videos of 2009. My son saw firsthand what greatness was and what made this sport, and all of sports, so great.

He saw Charlotte pull within three points with 30 seconds left. He saw Wade take a fade-away, mid-range jumper that would make a mathematician sick. He saw Wade make the shot, fall to the floor, and get up as defiant as ever.

He saw Kemba Walker beat Udonis Haslem on a drive to the basket. He saw his hero chase Walker down and slap his layup off of the backboard with 15 seconds left, sealing a crucial Game 6 win.

He saw the clock go down to zero and the Miami Heat survive to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

He turned around to me and said, “I can’t believe Dwyane Wade did that.”

He couldn’t believe the stories from his father were true.

Comments

  1. bengarbarino says:

    My son is just 2 now, I 32. This is a game I will tell him about when he grows up and this post sums up perfectly how I hope our relationship with basketball will be. He will know Dwyane Wade, no matter who his favorite player turns out to be.

  2. Michael says:

    Very true – our fathers help create / excite our passion for sports…great article!

  3. Pagan Scum says:

    F***in A!

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