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2019 NBA All-Star Game

An appreciation for how Dwyane Wade has used his platform

On the All-Star stage one last time, D-Wade reflects on finding his voice

Dwyane Wade has been cool under pressure, taking game-winning shots throughout his 16-year career. He’s delivered on the NBA’s biggest stage, with three championships and a Finals MVP award. He’s performed in front of the world during the Olympics. But when he stood behind a black curtain alongside fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony before their social call to action at the 2016 ESPYS, Wade had butterflies.

“I was a little nervous,” Wade told The Undefeated recently.

“When we walked on the stage we talked about, ‘This moment right here is going be a moment that is going to be big,’ ” Wade continued. “ ‘And it’s going to mean a lot, maybe more than we all know right now with this team.’

“We wanted to deliver a message and talk to our fellow athletes that were in the crowd, and obviously everyone watching it around the world, about what we were dealing with in this world. And not being afraid to speak on it as four well-known black athletes that’s involved in their communities, well-known in the NBA and well-known around the world. Facewise, I thought that was important, and we all did, so I’m glad we did that together.”

Wade’s words during the speech — “Enough is enough” — were echoed worldwide that night.

One of the greatest guards to ever play the game, Wade has been celebrated by the Heat and opposing teams this season after announcing his plans to retire when the season ends. NBA commissioner Adam Silver also honored Wade and fellow soon-to-be retiree Dirk Nowitzki by naming them special All-Stars for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday.

A 13-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBA selection, Wade, the Heat’s all-time leading scorer, will one day be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But, as his career comes to a close, the 37-year-old should also be celebrated for his work as a social activist.

Longtime Heat teammate Udonis Haslem believes Wade started having a strong social activist voice in 2010 when fellow All-Stars James and Chris Bosh joined him in Miami. Wade said his voice arrived when he understood who he was as a black man.

“It comes with age, comes with maturity, comes with understanding your position,” Wade said. “I’m very aware of life, of all the people around. I’m very aware of myself, so I’m going to speak on what I believe on.

“It’s my belief, and I’ve been gifted this platform to be able to do that. And I know a lot of people who haven’t been given, who probably never will be, so I think I just take advantage of that.”

Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “Dwyane has always shown great courage and empathy, and he started to really use his platform to try to make change. It has been so inspiring to many of us in our organization and around the league. He’s done it with the right type of grace and class, where people respond to it.”

On Feb. 26, 2012, Wade, James and Bosh were in Orlando, Florida, for the NBA All-Star Game. That same day, a hoodie-wearing teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, after returning from a store with iced tea and candy. The shooter was a neighborhood crime-watch volunteer named George Zimmerman, who later said he shot the unarmed Martin in self-defense.

Wade said at the time that Martin’s death hit home to him as the father of two sons. On March 24, 2012, Wade posted a photo of him wearing a hoodie on his Twitter and Facebook pages. James followed suit shortly afterward with a photo of the entire Heat team at their Detroit-area team hotel wearing hoodies with their heads down and hands in their pockets. The photo included a hashtag that read: “WeWantJustice.”

“I remember that walk-through we had in Detroit like it was yesterday,” Spoelstra said. “Everyone was talking about it beforehand. They started talking about what they wanted to do. It was a perfect example of using the platform in the right way to be able to make an impression on people.

“That’s what you want. You want a compound, multiplying effect. Dwyane gets that as much as anybody I’ve been around.”

Dwyane Wade says he found his social activist voice when he understood who he was as a black man.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Wade, who was born on the South Side of Chicago on Jan. 17, 1982, is all too familiar with the gun violence that has been a nightmare for his hometown.

In 2016, as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Wade participated via satellite in an ESPN town hall meeting hosted by The Undefeated on athletes, social responsibility and gun violence held at a South Side YMCA. He said it was important that “we help each other.” The next day, his 32-year-old cousin Nykea Aldridge was shot and killed on the South Side. The mother of four was pushing a stroller with her infant in it and was not the intended target.

After the shooting of his cousin, Wade wrote on Twitter: “The city of Chicago is hurting. We need more help& more hands-on deck. Not for me and my family but for the future of our world. The YOUTH!”

On Sept. 2, 2016, Wade spoke to ABC News about Chicago’s gun laws and called for city officials to make them stronger to aid citizens and the police. He also spoke about how his children had similar fears of police officers and the need to have better rehabilitation methods for inmates. That interview took place a day before his cousin’s funeral.

“Each thing that you do, I think, is important,” Wade said. “Whether it’s something that you see similar to your family, to your upbringing. Whether it’s the community, the city of Chicago, the community that I’m from. There are so many different reasons why you decide to do something. Many guys understand the platform that we have. I understand. Maybe I’m not as well-versed on certain things. Maybe I’m not living it now. But I also know there are people out there that’s living it, that doesn’t have a voice, that doesn’t get a chance to come out and say the things that they need to say or want to say.

“So I know that I’m speaking for the ones that are muted, the voiceless ones, and I take pride in that. I take pride in speaking for my community. I take pride in being there for my community, just like they did for us, just like they support us.”

On Thursday, Wade took to Twitter to remember the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Wade visited the school a few weeks after the shooting last year to spend time with the students.

The Heat are expected to retire Wade’s No. 3 jersey one day. But when his NBA days are over, Wade still plans to use his social platform with a following of nearly 8 million on Twitter, 12.5 million on Instagram and nearly 11 million on Facebook.

“I just want to continue to be active in what I believe in and what I want to support,” Wade said. “Obviously, I’ve been blessed with abundance. And I’m at this point now where I’ve done so many things in the foundation space. My wife has done so many things. So we’re at this point in our family where, one, we’re trying to have our kids grow in that space as a family, and we’ll continue to support things that we believe in.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.