Gabrielle Union talks dating, sports

Gabrielle Union, star of 'Think Like A Man' and girlfriend of Dwyane Wade, knows her sports. Noel Vasquez/Getty Images for Extra

You talk sports smack with actress Gabrielle Union, she’s going to shut you down.

Especially if it has anything to do with Nebraska football.

Long before she began dating Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade -- or she was married to former NFL player Chris Howard or dating her high-school sweetheart was Jason Kidd -- she was a Cornhusker football fan.

This month, the Nebraska native stars in Steve Harvey’s big screen adaptation “Think Like A Man,” and considering she’s had a pretty fair relationship record, she knows what boys like.

Union, 39, talks with us about football, Skip Bayless and going one-on-one with Wade.

You’re dating an NBA superstar, you’re starring in “Think Like A Man,” and you know how to hoop. We get it. You know how to land a man. Do women need to be as sharp at talking sports in order to find happiness ever after?

I think it has to be authentic. Just like I find men who talk sports who don’t really know sports annoying, I think men might find women who don’t really have a true passion and knowledge of sports maybe not so attractive. But if you want to try to find something to share, you know, with a guy this could be one way. You don’t want to say, ‘No, I love sports! I love to watch March Madness!’ And then you guys get in a full-on relationship and you’re like, ‘I hate March Madness! I hate ESPN! I can’t stand the SportsCenter song.’

But does being sports savvy help?

It helps in this relationship. But it didn’t help when I was dating the barber, who was more into art. I’m having a discussion about MJ’s shot over Bryon Russell, and he’s like, ‘What? I’m talking Picasso.’ I’ve been a Cornhusker fan since birth, my dad is a huge sports fan -- he wanted boys and got three girls -- so sports has always been on in my house. I’ve always had an interest in sports across the board. Just be very true and honest about what it is that you like and don’t like, otherwise you’re going to be listening to Skip Bayless and Stephen A. (Smith) and pulling your hair out.

Sounds like you’re no punk. You know your stuff.

In my family if you couldn’t talk Cornhusker football -- that means knowing the black shirt defense, knowing the I-back formation -- then you don’t get to have an opinion. When I first toured the Nebraska campus and I saw Turner Gill walk, I freaked out. That was like the biggest star-struck moment I’ve probably ever had in my life. But it’s because I grew up in a household that always talked specifically Cornhusker football and Big 8 sports, at the time.

But you’re in this world of basketball now. Did you have to quickly learn all things NBA once you started dating Dwyane Wade?

No, I started playing basketball when I was six. I probably started as a four, and then very quickly demonstrated my ball-handling prowess, so I was probably point guard from, like, seven or eight on playing competitive basketball. I played sports year around: basketball, soccer, softball and I ran track year around, from the time I was, like, six, seven. So I’ve played myself. I think it comes from a first-hand account of being an athlete and of loving sports.

Have you ever gone one-on-one against Dwyane?

I have. And it’s not pretty.

Not pretty for him or for you?

For me. Not good for my ego. During the lockout we played a lot of HORSE, and I just try to sit at the free throw line and I’m like, ‘He’s gonna screw up at one point or another.’ I was, in high school, a career 93-percent free-throw shooter. So I feel like if I just stay at the free-throw line I have a solid chance. I think I’ve got it into H-O-R. That’s as far as I’ve ever come.

It’s early still, but any thoughts about the playoffs this year or what you would love to see happen come June?

I don’t want to put the horse before the carriage, but we’re in April and … we’re getting down to the wire. I’m very excited for when they unleash Eddy Curry on someone. I cannot wait for that day. I think we’ve been holding him back, and he’s like the bucking bronco ready to charge out of the gate. I’m really excited to see how it all jells and how it all comes together, and I think the Heat will be a force to be reckoned with. But it’s day-to-day, and it’s always a process. So I would never jinx anyone.

That sounds good. And with 93 percent free throw shooting, you could shoot for the Heat.

Well, at the very least I’m gonna try to get an ‘S’ on D in a game of HORSE.