After 16 Hall-of-Fame-caliber NBA seasons and three championship rings, former Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade has been in the news for something he’d probably tell you is more important than all of that: How he’s carried himself as a father.
Earlier this month, his daughter, Zaya, came out as transgender. Since then, Wade and his family have been the target of transphobic comments—to which he responded by appearing on several talk shows, voicing support for his daughter. Last week, Wade told Ellen DeGeneres that he and his wife, Gabrielle Union, “take our roles and our responsibility as parents very seriously,” and that listening and helping their children “doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”
In an interview with Esquire for our newest video series, “Explain This,” Wade broke down what it meant to him when his son, Zaire, supported Zaya in an Instagram post.
“Warmed my heart, tears comin’ out my eyes, because as a parent, you raise your kids to love each other, to stick together, to support each other no matter what,” he said. “And to hear my 18-year-old, who’s getting a lot of comments and a lot of negativity thrown his way, because of my daughter’s gender identity, you know has been tough. But to see him stand up and be by her side, that was like my favorite parenting moment—I feel like I really did a good job as a parent, after I read that.”
Elsewhere in the video, Wade addresses the surprise-controversy from last weekend—his role in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. For some background, the event’s judges regularly give out nines and tens (out of ten). So, it’s not really a surprise that NBA fans were upset that Wade—who was one of the five judges of this year’s event—dared to score anyone less than a nine. Things got even worse for Wade at the end of the competition. The finale came down to the Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. and the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon, who went six rounds (!) with an even score. During the last round, Gordon made a last-minute call to bring out Tacko Fall—all seven feet, five inches of the guy—and proceeded to dunk over him. Fans were begging for a tie at this point, but the trophy went to Jones Jr.
Sports media rushed to blame Wade, who gave Gordon a nine for his last dunk, along with Scottie Pippen and Chadwick Boseman. At the time, Wade only said, ““I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Now, in “Explain This,” Wade finally broke down his reasoning behind Gordon’s score.
“A lot of people thought he should have gotten a 50 from the judges,” Wade said. “I was one of three judges who decided to give him a nine. The reason we did that is because he didn’t clear Tacko Fall. He actually sat on his head. But amazing dunk, I couldn’t do it, most of the people in the world could not do it, but ultimately I was just excited to be a judge and I could not do any of these dunks that they did.”
Fair enough—if you look back at the highlight, it’s less of a dunk, and more of a piggyback ride. Check out the rest of the video, which comes days before Sunday night’s debut of D. Wade: Life Unexpected, which chronicles his upbringing, basketball career, and life away from the court. In this episode of “Explain This,” Wade breaks down his regrettable draft-night outfit, the time he wore a Versace jumpsuit for an Esquire photoshoot, and what it meant to him when his son, and the time he revenge-dunked on Kendrick Perkins.