JR. NBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 30, 2018
DWYANE WADE: I definitely will be up there for a few days. I just love being around basketball, as you've seen. I was in Vegas this week, not only watching my son play but watching other kids play, and just love being around the game. This is the purest form of basketball at this age. When I'm out there I'm all in, just making sure that I'm around the kids. If I can give a piece of advice at times, if I can cheer them on and give them confidence at times, I want to do that. I'm going to be a big kid watching the game that I love.
Q. And the second part of that question?
DWYANE WADE: In due time. Time will tell.
Q. You said you were in Vegas watching your son. Some other kids as well. What is it like watching your son, LeBron's kids, Carmelo, Chris Paul, all your friends that have kids playing on this competitive, high-level AAU circuit? And then the follow-up is how much has this competitive, high-level circuit changed in the past two decades since you were that age?
DWYANE WADE: To be able to watch your kid do something that they love to do and do something that they're passionate about, and to be a father that played a sport that your son and my nephew as well play this game, it's just cool to watch them go through this process. It's something fun to be a part of, to support them, to coach them. And having friends' kids, the same way. It's cool that we all can go support each other. It means a lot when the kid's father is there, but it means even more when a Carmelo or LeBron or CP [Chris Paul] or myself show up to the other kids' games, which we call our nephews.
Like I said before, one of the things I was excited about joining and being an ambassador of the Jr. NBA is that this is the purest form of basketball. To be able to be around kids of this age, before it becomes a business, a real business, it's exciting just to watch kids go out there and give everything they have. To see them pick up things from moment to moment, from minute to minute, to watch them grow, it's just incredible. It's something that I love to do, that I love watching.
As I put in a tweet, I get more passion watching my son play the game right now and more joy than I did even playing it myself. There's just something about being a parent and watching your kid do something that you love and that they love to do.
Q. In terms of how much this has changed in the two decades since you were that age and playing games like that?
DWYANE WADE: I only played one year of AAU. To say it's different is not even the right term. It definitely has taken on a life of its own. It was cool then. But now, I'm looking at the baseline, I'm looking at the media that's there, I'm looking at every college coach in the world is there, I'm looking at the fans in the building and I'm looking at the talent on the court. [The talent has] changed as well. The talent that these young kids have nowadays is way, way, way more than we had at that age and couldn't even imagine having.
It's definitely exciting and fun to watch. But it's another side of it that's become a business side of it, which is unfortunate for some kids. A lot of kids get taken advantage of at an early age.
You know, there are definitely pros and cons to the change from when I played.
Q. I know one of your sons is playing basketball in high school. I don't know if he is the factor that will make you decide whether to stay or go overseas to extend your career.
DWYANE WADE: My son is a junior in high school right now. I'm just enjoying being a father that can add something to something he's doing. It would be a little bit more difficult if my son was playing another sport that I don't have the expertise at as much.
I'm loving supporting him and my family. Every decision at this point, especially in a professional athlete's career, at 36 years old, a lot of it surrounds their families and what's best for them and their families. So 100 percent it is.
I'm really invested into making sure that my son can have every tool that he needs to be able to succeed at this game of basketball and this game of life that he wants. I think basketball is a great tool for all the lessons that I'm trying to teach him and my wife and my family are trying to teach him. That's one of the things that I love about the game and what the game teaches our youth.
I think being a part of a team is something that he's going to have to get used to and learn how to work with others. That's a part of the world. There are so many great core values of the game of basketball that our kids are learning. That's why I'm a big fan of being a part of Jr. NBA. That's why I'm a big fan of going out and supporting high school games, grammar school games, et cetera. It's because I love what our youth is learning from the game of basketball.
Q. I know the true international explosion in the NBA happened late '90s, early 2000s, but I'm curious since you entered the league, how much that international influence has grown and changed and how developmental programs like this Jr. NBA World Championship have contributed to that and helped that along?
DWYANE WADE: Yeah, it has. It's changed so much. I think for me, I go back to probably the Olympics in 2008. I think about just going over there and being a part of the team and being a part of the Kobe Bryant show. Just look at how big Kobe was. We all knew that Kobe was going to China at the time and taking these tours with Nike and all these different things. And I think from afar, we all saw it.
But we didn't know how big the game was globally until we got the opportunity to go over there and play in the Olympics. Then the NBA started sending us over to different places to play in the preseason. You see the level of the game and how big it is everywhere. So for me, not only being a part of playing in an Olympics in '08 in Beijing, but also being endorsed and sponsored and partnered with Li-Ning, a Chinese brand. I never even thought about that when I first came in the league or even in 2008, and then in 2012 I was signed with the brand. Now it's almost a part of my life forever.
It's just so cool the opportunities that we have and the opportunities that all our kids have around the world to share something together, and that's the game of basketball. That was one of the things that I was excited about in being a part of the Jr. NBA. We were taking teams from the U.S. and taking teams globally and putting them together to compete against each other and showcase our game on a national and worldwide scale. I'm excited to see the growth of our game everywhere.
Q. Is there one non-U.S. country that you see as sort of the gold standard for developmental programs that's churning out not necessarily the most athletic youth but the guys who understand the game the best?
DWYANE WADE: That's a great question. I think probably my time in the NBA, you look at guys like Pau and Marc [Gasol] and other players that come from Spain. We played those guys [in the Beijing Olympics]. They're very good. We had to beat them with an amazing shot by Kobe and a couple big plays by LeBron, myself and others to even win the gold medal.
I think a lot of guys from Europe are ahead of the curve. It's kind of like our game of basketball has kind of now changed into the style of play and the way that they've played the game for so many years even in the NBA. I see other countries, even in China. When I'm out there, we're talking about our basketball camps. When we're working our camps and we're thinking about the future, it's about getting them on that same track to give them the things they need from a physical standpoint, mental standpoint with the game of basketball.
It's definitely grown. I would say Europe, certain players have already been ahead of the curve. You look at big guys like [Arvydas] Sabonis back in the day, you look at Vlade Divac and those guys, they could play in today's game. They started the way the NBA is going, so definitely the talent level is super high.
Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on returning to the Heat and then having the playoff run, possibly proving yourself in the playoffs once again.
DWYANE WADE: Timing is everything. The timing of me coming back to Miami from a personal standpoint, a community standpoint was important. I was going through something personally in my life at the time, and I needed it. I needed to be around my family. I needed to be in an environment that I was familiar with. Also, when I went back to the city, the community needed me to be back. It needed my voice. It needed my face. They needed my support.
So it definitely was the perfect time for me being back. I enjoyed being around the guys. Obviously, I didn't like the fact we lost 4-1 in the playoffs. But for me to get back to my comfort zone and show that being in the right situation with the right opportunities that I could still play this game, maybe not above the rim but play the game at a level that can help the team be successful, all those things for me were great.
Q. One of the biggest offseason moves was Kawhi Leonard getting traded for DeMar DeRozan. I saw you tweeted a message about loyalty and stuff in the game. Is that a big issue with players?
DWYANE WADE: So my message was this, if it wasn't clear: [There is] no loyalty in sports. Know what I mean? It's a business from both sides, from an organizational standpoint and a player standpoint. It doesn't mean that someone won't stay with an organization for their whole time. It doesn't mean someone won't take care of a player. But there are some points in time where a player has been on the trading block and may not have gotten traded; a player thought about going to another team, something happened or didn't happen, he ended up staying with that team. It's a lot of different things.
Ultimately, there's no loyalty from the standpoint of, hey, they're going to do what's best for them and you're going to do what's best for you. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's more so the message that is portrayed is not a clear message. It's a bad message, just from the simple fact that organizations get cheered and understanding when they have to make a decision about a player, and players get booed and ridiculed when they make a decision for what they want to do and what's best for their future.
For me, the story is more so it's an awful picture that's been painted, and it needs to be told differently and it needs to be seen differently. But ultimately, if you understand both sides, if you understand the business side of things, if I understand from a player side, then you understand that organizations are going to make decisions that are best for them at the time, and players need to make the decision that's best for them. And that's OK.
Q. Do you ever talk to your son about maybe the pressure he faces being your son and what it's like for him to kind of have your last name on his back? And beyond that, can you give us a scouting report on your son's game? We've seen the highlight tapes, but what's your take on it?
DWYANE WADE: I love the game of basketball. My son loves the game of basketball in the sense where if you're not playing the game, you're watching the game. If you're not watching the game, you're thinking the game. If you're not thinking the game, you just want to be around it. Hence me being a part of basketball camps, me being a part of this Jr. NBA. I want to be around basketball. I want to be around kids. I want to be around watching players grow. I want to be around the excitement and the fun of watching kids go through the highs and lows of the game. So I love the game.
One thing I told my son from the beginning: Hey, if you're going to play this game, the only way I'm going to allow you to play this game and support you playing this game is only because you love it. Not because you feel like you should because the pressures of your dad or if it gets too much for you and all these things. I want to see you enjoying the game of basketball. When I ever see my son not enjoying the game, that's when I'm talking to him the most. That's when I'm in his ear, because we play this game for one reason, and that's for the enjoyment of it.
That said, ain't no pressures. You're Zaire Wade. You're not Dwyane Wade Jr. You're Zaire Wade. You have your own name. You have your own journey. You have your own steps to take in life. I'm just providing a platform and providing a light that is going to add a little bit more to yours. But that's OK. It ain't nothing but an opportunity, and that's kind of my message to him.
From the standpoint of his game, my son's game is changing every year. I think this summer he took a big jump. I think from the standpoint of the skill aspect of it, from the ages of 13 through 16, these are important ages for kids from a development standpoint, in their mind, in their bodies. My son just missed the cut for being able to be a part of something like the Jr. NBA, which I think is important at a certain age for kids to learn the core values of the game. That's what I've been able to teach my son and give him, but he's still learning.
So I think his scouting report would be an unbelievable passer, can see the floor very well. He's a big-game player, pretty decent shooter as well and just a great teammate.
Q. You've talked a lot about family and how important they'll be in your decision. LeBron went to L.A. with his family weighing pretty heavily into his decision. You're as close to LeBron as anybody. On the court, basketball-wise, this is going to be a new situation for him where he's got to groom a young core of up-and-coming players and get used to new pieces that he's going to be playing with. After seeing him contend for so long, eight years in a row on the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference, he's in a situation now where he might not be able to get to the NBA Finals, having to get through Golden State and Houston. How do you see him handling that situation for the first time in a long time?
DWYANE WADE: Well, first, do not count him out. That would be the wrong thing to do. I think in his mind, he prepares to go to the Finals every year. That's the God-given abilities and talent that he's been gifted and given. So in his mind, he's not looking at it the way you explained it. But he also understands that there are going to be trials and tribulations as well. He also understands that it's going to be a growth. There's going to be a part where these young players need to grow and need to learn, and him and [Rajon] Rondo and those guys can help their process.
But by no stretch of the imagination do I believe that he doesn't believe that they can go to the Finals or go to the Western Conference Finals and compete to go to the Finals and all these things. He definitely has added another amazing chapter to his storybook career. We're all going to watch and see how it unfolds, but I would never count that guy out.
Q. With guys like Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and the young kids the Lakers have, how do you see that working with LeBron?
DWYANE WADE: I don't really know. The thing about it, I don't really have to have that answer. It's not my team. I think they're all going to enjoy playing together. I know that. And everything else they're going to have to figure out. It's going to be on them.
We've all watched teams in the past that came together we didn't think could work and they worked, and teams that we thought could work couldn't work. I think they have a lot of talent. They have a lot of veteran leadership. They have a lot of young guys. If they want it to work, if they want to figure it out, I think they can.
Q. There's an African team taking part at the Jr. NBA World Championship. You played with a couple of African players in the NBA. Do you think that moments like this are really where the future Giannis Antetokounmpos and Joel Embiids will be found? And the second part of the questions is, the NBA Africa Game is happening on Saturday. Will you be focusing on it in any way or hoping to play in it in the future?
DWYANE WADE: I'll start with the second one first. I'm not a part of it. I don't play a lot of basketball in the summers since I'm a little older and got a lot of mileage on my body.
But as to your first question, I have. I played with Luol Deng, just to name one of my teammates. From Luol's first year in the league to when I played with him, to watch the growth of certain players from Africa, it's incredible the talent that they have. And I think at this age, at 13 and 14, the age that these young boys and girls are in the Jr. NBA, they are open slates right now. They have so much potential and so much opportunity. I think this platform for them is going to be incredible. I do think the NBA, the world, is going to discover players from all around the world, especially from Africa.
I love watching players from Africa play. I love watching Antetokounmpo from his first year until now, how he's learned the game. They come in with this unbelievable talent, and then you can watch them kind of mold into being great players. I definitely think this is a great opportunity for not only players from Africa but players all around to maybe get an opportunity that they possibly would not have had, playing in the Jr. NBA.
Q. Can you speak about the role basketball can play in developing youth off the court?
DWYANE WADE: This is something that I use when they come to teach my older boys, my son and my nephew. It's something that we like to call the core values of basketball. It's teamwork. It's respect. It's determination. It's strong will. It's community. It's all these things that I preach to my kids and let them know that you're going to use all these things in life. No matter what career path that you choose, you're going to have to learn how to be a great teammate. No matter if you own a company or if you intern at a company. You have to learn how to work with others. You have to learn how to communicate with others. You have to learn how to lead others.
There are so many different things that the game of basketball teaches our kids. For me, it's so cool that I'm able to use these core values in my home to get my kids to understand not only the importance of sports but the importance of using what they're learning from sports and what they learn in everyday life and be able to use both of them together.
It's great to be able to share that message.
Q. Do you have any advice for the players participating in the upcoming Jr. NBA World Championship?
DWYANE WADE: Enjoy this opportunity that these 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls have gotten. To compete on this stage, globally, you guys get an opportunity to be on "SportsCenter." You get an opportunity to have eyes on you, and not only from a basketball standpoint but also how you carry yourself, how you deal with others, how you communicate with others, how you deal with your teammates, how you deal with winning and losing. This is a showcase. This is an opportunity for people to get a chance to see who you are, how you are, how you're built. Those are the messages that I would sit down and tell them.
I will also tell them to make relationships along the way. They're around kids from all different walks of life through this process. They're competing against each other, but they're also having downtime. Relationships are one of the most important things in this world, so develop these relationships, get to know people from different backgrounds, different races, different beliefs. You never know whose life you're going to be able to change. Those are some of the messages that I'll pass across.
Q. How important is it for those kids to have a camp for them in that early stage?
DWYANE WADE: Their development at this age is very important. That's why I was so excited and happy to get behind this when I knew the age group that the Jr. NBA was starting at, around this 13 and 14 years. I know it's an important year for the basketball mind to grow, the body to grow. Also, you can really start taking what you're learning and what people have been teaching you and talking about the game. You can start learning how to apply it at this age. So it's very important.
Q. I'm wondering your opinion of Serbian basketball? We have players like Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Nikola Jokic.
DWYANE WADE: I got an opportunity to play in Serbia for exhibition games when I was with the Olympic team. The support was amazing. The game was phenomenal. And I grew up watching players like Peja [Stojakovic]. I grew up watching players like that play the game of basketball. When I see someone play basketball, I don't worry about what country they come from. If they play or not, if they're out there, if they're in the NBA, if they're on the court, they can play, right?
But it's been cool seeing the game grow, and to see one player make it and give other young kids the belief and the hope that they can do it. Whether it's in Serbia or whether it's in Canada, with Vince Carter [while with the Toronto Raptors] giving Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson the belief that they can do it just by watching their favorite athlete perform. It's cool what sports and especially the game of basketball can do for the next generation.
Q. When you see the level of organization that was in Vegas and when you followed your son around the country, when you hear about things like Jr. NBA, how much better would you have been if stuff like this was this well put together 20 years ago when you were learning this game? Have you ever thought about that angle of it?
DWYANE WADE: I definitely think about that all the time. I may tell my kids a little too much that I just taught myself. But I do let them know that I didn't have even close to the attention to detail, how you worked on your body, how to do a Euro step -- I didn't go through any of that. My dad taught me how to play basketball, and he was a "D" player at best when he played.
For these youth, for these kids to have this opportunity -- like these kids in Jr. NBA to have these opportunities. Your goal is to play in the NBA, and you associate with it at 13, 14 years old. The opportunity they have is just endless. You want kids to take advantage of it and not to take it for granted because the talent level out here nowadays, like I was saying, is way, way higher than the talent level of some of the greats that have ever played the game at this age. The sky's the limit for them because of how the world has changed and how everyone's thoughts and minds are changing on youth sports and on bodies and on training and all these different things. It's just a total different beast.
I always tell my son: Listen, your dad made it to this point without any of that. You have an opportunity to do something so incredible. People are always trying to, say, compare you to your father. You could be way better than your father. As long as you have the right mentality and the right love and the heart for the game, the talent, you're going to be way more talented than I ever could be. You're going to have the ability to be.
It's great to see all these kids have this opportunity. And it's our goal to make sure that the next generation and the future is taken care of and it's better than us. They are definitely there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports