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Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union on D-Wade's post-retirement life

NBA, Miami Heat

In advance of Dwyane Wade's final regular-season games next week, ESPN's Rachel Nichols sat down with Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, to discuss Wade's upcoming retirement and what post-NBA life holds for the 13-time All-Star. An edited transcript of their conversation appears below:


Nichols: What do you think he is going to miss the most about playing in the NBA?
Union: Oh, his friends. His friends. People kept asking me about, like, the brotherhood. What makes those guys' friendship so special. I kept finding myself at a loss for words. It kinda came to me. What makes their friendship so special is they don't operate from a space of scarcity. Which I think is what stops a lot of people from becoming friends and having real connections because they think there is only so many spots at the top. There is only so many championships and I can't befriend somebody who has similar goals. What they do is not operate from a space of scarcity. They know there is enough to go around. Some of them have won more championships than others but what [Chris Paul] does he can't do. What he does [Carmelo Anthony] can't do. What Melo does, [LeBron James] can't do. So they can exist as individuals and still celebrate each other and still enjoy each other. Without trying to be each other. Or fight for scraps. There's a lot to be had out there.

Nichols: Do you think it is going to be weird for him that all those guys you mentioned are still going to be playing and he's going to be sitting on the couch?
Wade: [Holding baby] Doing this.
Union: I'm sure there will be times where he is going to start to dissect the game and be like "Oh, this is what I would have done." End of the day, he is really happy for them. You know, he's really happy for his friends. It's new, though, because I've only known him as an active player who goes into the playoffs, who has won championships, so we'll find out. We'll find out. I'm sure Twitter will know, like if he becomes a thumb thug. Where's he like ...
Wade: A thumb thug? [Looks at baby] You got something you want to say?
Union: [Looks at baby] You think Dad is going to be a hater? Think he is going to turn into a hater? Nah.

Nichols: It is weird when professional athletes retire. You're not just quitting your job, this is the thing that has dictated what city you've lived in. When you go on vacation and when you don't. Where your kids go to school, like everything. When you eat, when you wake up, when you go to sleep at night. And when you walk away from that, you are walking away from the structure of your entire life. What do you think that is going to be like?
Wade: As I said, I'll be in therapy.
Nichols: Seriously?
Wade: No, seriously. I meant it is going to be a big change. This is what I know, like, my life has been this. it's not all that I am, of course, but this is the main part of it. From the standpoint of it makes everything work. I told my wife, I said, I need to do therapy and we need to do a little bit. I was always against someone that don't know me telling me how to live my life or giving me instructions. But I need someone to talk to about it. Because it is a big change. Even though I got a long life to live, other great things I can accomplish and do, it's not this. So it's going to be different.

Nichols: The fact that someone like you is going to talk about that is going to make it OK for other people to do something like that. You know the impact that's going to have.
Union: I've been going many years. He's like, "All right, good luck with that." Come, come. So for him to come around and see the benefit, and actually look forward to it, I think it is going to do a lot for the stigma. For mind, body and soul wellness.

Nichols: Now I mentioned all those things, especially with a pro athlete. Other people do a lot of stuff for you when you are a professional athlete. What do you think he is going to be the most a mess about that he is suddenly going to have to do for himself?
Union: I don't know how much will change to be honest. Thank God, he has invested well. The man has done quite well for himself. I'm not too shabby either. I don't predict major changes. So maybe there won't be the people that press his jersey at the arena but not much will change. He's actually got everybody on board. We're not going to get the whole team to stay with us. Nope, everybody coming. Wherever we go next, everybody is going to come with us. He might have to pick up dog poop. I don't know if the dog poop picker upper will make it to our next destination. So he will be picking up dog poop.
Wade: It's a few things that's going to change. We're going to spend more time in L.A. It's a few things in my mind, I've already had to make an adjustment to.
Nichols: Like what?
Wade: I like new sheets every day on my bed. I like clean towels every day.
Union: A housekeeper every day. We're on the black actress salary in Los Angeles. Now that the athlete salary will be joining me in L.A. on more of a full-time basis so some of the things I didn't think were necessary every day, like maybe you can sleep on the same sheets a couple days in a row, or God forbid use the same towel. Not for this baby [points at Wade] or this baby [points at baby].

Nichols: I'll have to check back in a year to see who won this battle. Of course your beautiful daughter has been the biggest change for you guys in this retirement year. You did something unheard of for a pro athlete. You didn't just take off the day she was born, you took weeks of paternity leave to be with both of them. Why do you think that was so important and how much of that will be a preview of what this next phase of your life is going to be like?
Wade: Definitely. Big preview. I don't control anything. For me and my wife and my family it was important for us because we had our daughter via surrogate and we didn't get a chance to have that closeness that you want to have. I didn't get a chance to talk to her stomach and sing to her. We needed that connection. Both of us. We wanted to spend time as a family and just get that connection. We're still, as you slobber all over your face, we're still building. It was important to me. Me being in my last season helped. But I always do things to show people it can be done. It's ways you can do it, it's ways you can spend time away. But it can be done. It was the first time but I don't know if it will be the last time in sports. I think, eventually, it will be another situation like I was where it would matter that much to both parents and take a little time away.

Nichols: What is the thing you and the kids are most excited he is going to be around for?
Union: Just time. Like the normal things he misses. Whether it is the "Blackish" marathons the rest of us watch or I'm sure with Zaire's or Dahveon's games or just being able to be back an active listener. Zion is a writer. Just the little things he misses or any professional athlete misses that you sort of take for granted. Well I have tomorrow or I have the next day and then a day turns into a week turns into months and you've missed whole chunks of time. Just the regular, dumb little things. Trips to the vet. Have you ever been to the vet? [Wade shakes head] We've got five dogs. They live at the vet. Have you ever been to the vet?
Wade: No.
Union: First time you went to the car wash was when?
Wade: On my own? In L.A., about three years ago.
Union: We go to Ralph's and he goes "This is what, $1,000?" Like, no! How much do you think stuff costs? He has no idea.
Wade: Yeah, no idea.
Nichols: So your life is going to change.
Wade: It is going to change a lot. It's going to be a lot of things that change and some that stay the same.

Nichols: You're already a winemaker. A sock and clothes and shoe magnate. Are you thinking about going into broadcasting?
Union: Are you coming for her job?
Nichols: For my job? I need him on the set of The Jump because I lose every argument to Tracy McGrady.
Wade: Say I lose every argument [laughs].
Nichols: Because he wins everything so you need to come help me. We can work this out?
Wade: I have no idea what it is I want to do yet. Because I do a lot of things now that I'm reminded about every day, but when I think about like the thing I get out of bed, I'm so used to getting out of bed for something every day. You know what I mean, I gotta go to work, whatever that thing is, I don't know yet but I definitely know I want to do a little bit of everything. Especially in the beginning, I want to see what I can be great at. I'm so used to being great at something or trying to strive to be great at something. That's what I want to be at whatever else I choose to do. We'll see.

Nichols: You and I talked about your career before, but your legacy, your leaving is so much more than points, assists. You, LeBron and Chris [Bosh] changed the course of the NBA with the way players have agency over their own lives, their own careers. What does it mean to you to have left that behind you?
Wade: It means a lot whether this generation that comes will not even know who I am, but it means to be a part of helping players understand their power as we've learned ours over the years. It's been cool from a standpoint of 2010, from a basketball standpoint being able to put the power in the player's hand that everyone is still using now. Or whether it is being able to take the stage at the ESPYS. With Bron, CP and Melo. Be able to talk about what is important in our communities and a call of action of what we need to do. It's been a lot of moments that I've been so lucky to be in fashion, in the NBA, I've been lucky to be in the forefront of that because of the rule change. Then we took that and made something of it. Everyone has these fashion brands and all this. So it's been so cool to be kinda a face of or part of helping players. It's been cool. I've enjoyed. I just hope we or I've set a good enough example for who is to come next. To understand their power, to understand their voice, to understand how to use this platform. I've had to make a lot of mistakes before I got here so hopefully we got rid of some of the mistakes for the next generation so they can fall right into place with it.

Nichols: That's something I'm going to credit your lovely wife of being so encouraging of him of having his own agency, using his platform. I know that's a big point of discussion between the two of you. When you guys stood up and put on those hoodies for Trayvon Martin, it had been decades since major, big-deal athletes regularly used that clout for social or political causes. When you guys did that, that opened the floodgates for so much. What have you seen him be able to do and what do you think he's leaving for the people behind him on both those fronts?
Union: When we think about what they did with the hoodies and what it represented. There are so many hoodie moments that need to be happening. So many marginalized communities that need to be centered and amplified. I think he's going to do an amazing job of passing the microphone to some voices that need to be heard. I think what you are going to see with him, with the LGBTQ+ community. That we haven't really seen from athletes. I don't think we have enough voices to take a hard stand for real equality. Whose activism is truly inclusive. Whose activism leans into all the intersections that exist in life. We haven't seen it and I think he's going to lead again. I don't think he gets enough credit for leading in so many things. I see and read articles now. So-and-so led the way with fashion. I'm like, the guy wasn't even born yet. He's been at the forefront. Betting on himself with Li-Ning Way of Wade or having a lifetime deal. You know, people thought he was crazy. They thought he should take scraps. He'd rather take the risk and bet on himself. Just having a great sense of self and knowing exactly what your value is and what your worth is.

Nichols: Last summer, I would check in on you and say "Oh, c'mon, you're not really done. Are you?" When I text you this summer and say, "OK, are you really done?" Text back, what is it going to be?
Wade: I'm going to send you a photo of us on a vacation. Couple of drinks. I'm in a good place. I'm in a real good space and I haven't been in that space in a long time. I'm happy with how my body feels. I'm happy with the extra additions to my life. I'm excited about the unknown. You know, it can be scary but it's excitement too of what is next and how are we going to accomplish this. How we going to get it done, you know? So I'm excited about it.

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