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EXCLUSIVE: Dwyane Wade Is On a Mission On and Off the Court

by Elliott Smith 9:50 AM PDT, March 15, 2017
Photo: Getty Images

Less than 12 hours after slicing through the Golden State Warriors to help score a major upset for his Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade is just as smooth navigating his way through a pack of visiting journalists in Chicago at the Bulls’ practice facility. He calls people by nicknames. He remembers small details. He’s quick with a smile and a quip. And he always stays on brand -- in this case, as one of the faces of Mission Athletecare, a high-tech sportswear brand that uses thermoregulation to dry five times faster, maximizing performance and recovery.

On the court, Wade’s resume is impeccable: a three-time NBA champion, 12-time All-Star and surefire hall of famer. The 35-year-old guard is still playing at a high level in his first season with the Bulls. And outside of basketball, Wade is one of a handful of athletes who has transcended the sports world to become a true celebrity no matter the setting, making major strides in fashion, acting and business and forming a high-powered couple with his wife, Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union.

MORE: Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade Celebrate Anniversary With Adorable Throwback Pics and Show Tunes

“If you can do it, you should,” Wade tells ET about athletes developing their brand. “It’s not for everyone. I’ve been in a great position in my career and in the time I’ve been playing this game. It has been a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of trials and tribulations. But it’s also a lot of cool things. To be able to be known worldwide, to have a brand outside the U.S., that’s something that’s pretty cool and part of my legacy. Whether I’m scoring 40 [points] or posting something, the support has been there.”

Wade’s involvement in Mission is an example of his hands-on approach to his off-court interests. He is an equity investor in the company, has been a spokesperson for nearly seven years, is working with its scientists and designers to create his own line of activewear, and was front and center in modeling the brand’s new MISSION VaperActive collection. “I think in his activities off the court, Dwyane brings a professionalism, a strategic mindset and thoughtfulness that sets him apart,” Mission founder and CEO Josh Shaw says.

Photo: Getty Images

“That’s what we all want at the end of the day,” Wade says. “We have these things that we want, and to see it come to fruition is cool. In this case, I’m into style and performing and working out, so to be able to merge it together with my collection coming out, and where Mission is today, is like a perfect storm.”

While Wade claims to not have leading-man aspirations -- “I don’t think acting is for me,” he says with a laugh -- others feel differently. Not only has he has starred in dozens of commercials, he’s guest-hosted Live! With Kelly and appeared as himself in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Austin & Ally and Just Wright, among other small roles.

“One thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown and gotten older is to really not close any doors,” he says. “I’ve been put in a position where I’ve been able to try things out and see if I like it, see if I’m terrible at it, see if I’m good at it, and that’s been a cool thing about this experience of being a professional athlete. To say, ‘Oh, I would like to do that,’ and be able to try it out.”

That doubles as the advice that Wade, one of the league’s elder statesmen, gives to younger players who look at him as a role model for building a brand outside of the game. “I think when I came in, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew basketball would be the vehicle that was going to allow me to do something. So I would say build relationships, try different things and don’t be afraid to be who you are.”

Wade’s connection to the entertainment industry blossomed even further with his 2014 marriage to Union. While the fiercely proud Chicago native says, “I don’t really live in Hollywood,” Wade’s marriage to a bona fide Hollywood star has given him a new appreciation for that aspect of his life. “Anytime it’s time for me to go onto that side, whether I’m hosting Live! With Kelly or I’m doing TV shows, I pick her brain on that. She’s a professional and I’m not, so I always try to take some hints or clues, whatever she can give me.”

Wade and Union worked together in February to open “D&G: A His and Hers Pop-Up Fancy Experience” at the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. The pop-up shop, which was housed in a boutique hotel, featured items ranging from clothing to accessories curated from their own collections and other brands hand-picked by the couple.

“That was cool,” Wade says. “My wife is a very busy woman as well; she’s got a lot of amazing things either out or coming out, and to be able to merge what we’ve been doing and to have our products in the store was a cool concept, a cool vibe and an idea that we’re looking to see what we can do with going forward. That was one of the first things we’ve done together, because we try to both have our individual light, so to do something together was fun.”

Union remains impressed with Wade’s drive in his outside ventures, telling ET in February, “I married a guy almost 10 years younger than me, and I assumed I would be the teacher, and here I am the pupil learning and being motivated by his work ethic. I work my butt off, but he … every day he gets up and delivers again and again and again.”

Right now, Wade remains committed to helping the Bulls reach the top of the NBA standings, but the post-playing phase of his career seems to be in good shape, if not entirely mapped out. “I don’t think I know going forward what exactly that is going to be,” he says. “I don’t think I need to know. But I am open to things I wasn’t open to at 21, 22. Now, at 35, I’m excited about what the next thing is and what the future holds.”

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