MIAMI – Dwyane Wade has been a supportive voice and presence for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High since 14 students and three adults were killed at the school by a lone gunman on Feb. 14.
Wade was recognized for that activism on Wednesday by being chosen as finalists for the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award given by the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Wade said. “I’m sure each individual that’s a finalist is honored for it. You don’t do it for that reason. You do it for what’s in your heart, but it’s definitely an honor.”
Joining Wade as finalists are Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony, Dallas’ J.J. Barea, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Houston’s James Harden. The honor, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented to a player, coach or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community.
“I think his platform that he has here in South Florida is one of the most special things about his legacy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has that platform in Chicago and he has it worldwide. But Dwyane sees and understands that the success that he’s had as a professional basketball player can extend and be so powerful in so many other places, to be able to give back and to be able to help people that need it. And you’re seeing it right now just with his support of the whole Stoneman Douglas community in Parkland.
“It’s not just words with him. It’s actions. He’s out there really lending his support and his voice to give them a bigger megaphone. Dwyane is first class. He’s a special, special dude.”
Wade surprised the students of Stoneman Douglas on March 7 by visiting the school and meeting with students and school officials on the students’ first full day of classes after the tragedy.
Additionally, Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, donated $200,000 to help students from his hometown of Chicago to join last Saturday’s March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. He called for other NBA players to help join the cause.
Wade also helped turn an empty warehouse in the Wynwood district of Miami into a tribute to honor the victims of the shooting, calling the ‘Parkland 17.’
“To see him come into the league as a kid, everything is new to him about this league and as a professional basketball player and then to see his evolution and growth and ‘aha’ moments with him, that’s been cool to see,” said Spoelstra, who made at least two trips to Parkland to show support for the community.
Wade hopes being recognized helps further his cause. But even if it doesn’t, do not expect Wade to stop speaking out against social issues, including stricter gun laws.
“Any time your name is associated with the positive things that you’ve done in the community and it’s an award situation, especially one of this magnitude, it definitely helps,” he said.
Joaquin Oliver, 17, one of the victims, was buried in a Wade jersey. Wade dedicated the remainder of the season in Joaquin’s honor and invited Joaquin’s mom, dad and sister to a Heat game, meeting with them following the game. During All-Star Weekend, Wade joined a Sports and Society Roundtable to discuss how athletes can make an impact on the communities where they live.
The Wade’s World Foundation is involved in numerous year-round programs, including Global Outreach, Spotlight On, Season of Giving, Basketball Camps and Live to Dream in the Chicago, Milwaukee and Miami areas.
P.J. Brown (1996-97) and Alonzo Mourning (2001-02) are the only Heat players who have won the award. Current Heat guard Wayne Ellington won the award two years ago when he was Brooklyn and LeBron James was the winner a year ago.
Wade said he has learned about community involvement from Mourning, who serves as the Heat’s vice president of player programs.
“Being in this franchise, not only seeing the organization do amazing things in the community, I got an opportunity to see a mentor in Alonzo do things with his foundation,” Wade said. “And I got an opportunity for three years to team up with him to do some things at Zo’s Summer Groove and all the things we did together. I definitely took notes of the success he had away from the game.”
Each NBA team was offered the opportunity to nominate someone for the award and was asked to describe the nominee’s off-the-court accomplishments since the end of last season. A panel of 25 PBWA members reviewed the submissions and determined the finalists through a vote. The winner will be decided through a vote of the PBWA’s full membership.