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ON A COOL THURSDAY AFTERNOON IN NOVEMBER 2006, Dwyane and Tragil and Siohvaughn were sitting at a long table inside a gymnasium at the Miami Rescue Mission in Overtown, flanked by Heat teammates and their spouses. Overtown has some of the marks of the Englewood that Dwyane knew as a kid: bleary-eyed men walking zigzag, sad-looking buildings, an emptiness that feels like a threat. But on this day the crowd was moving in orderly lines, women mostly, some weary, some defiant and proud, as the world champions handed out Thanksgiving turkeys. At one point Dwyane rose from his seat and waded into a pack of screaming children. He picked up one girl, her hair in white-beaded braids, and squeezed her close as she tucked her face into his shoulder.
When he came back, Dwyane exchanged stories with Tragil about their own days like this, lining up with their grandmother in church or at a grocery store, so excited to be getting something, anything, they didn't have at home. "It takes me back," he said. "It always does."
The day after Miami had drafted her brother with the No. 5 pick in June 2003 and Dwyane had taken his first trip on a private jet, Tragil was in his suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Biscayne Bay taking pictures, staring at little islands in the turquoise water far below. There had been a whirl of meetings and handshakes and a flood of information about his new team and town, but finally they were alone. "Dude," Tragil said slowly, as if trying out the words, "you're going to be a millionaire."
Dwyane blinked. "Say that again."
"You're going to be ... a millionaire."
"Oh, my God."
Before the Heat, Wade's only other employer had been a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Robbins. His first check was for $120. His first NBA check? "Fifty-something thousand dollars," he says. "You know how you go home and lie down on the couch and watch TV all day? I was looking at my check all day, just sitting and looking at it. A lot of thoughts were going through my head, like, Man, my father didn't make this in a year, maybe even two. I'm making this in just a two-week span?"
But when you have it, money carries nowhere near the psychic weight that it does when you don't. Sooner than he could imagine, Wade's amazement faded; in July 2010 he signed a six-year contract extension reportedly worth more than $107 million. (In '11--12 he earned $15.5 million in salary from the Heat.) "God has blessed me with so many great earthly things," Wade said in '06. "It seemed so dark for 21 years, and then I've come into this newfound money and life and excitement. It's scary, because once you get to the point where you're so high there's nowhere else for you to go but down. Will I fall? How hard is that fall going to be? What is going to come with that fall?"
No one close to Wade is nearly that worried about his future. For the last decade he has lived by a strict code: His mother did drugs, drank and smoked; Dwyane doesn't do any of that. His parents split up when he was a baby, leaving him without a father during his formative years; Dwyane married Siohvaughn after she became pregnant and spent part of his time in college raising a son. He gave Zaire the middle name of Blessing, and Siohvaughn gave birth to their second son, Zion, in 2007.
However, in June 2010 Dwyane and Siohvaughn, who had been separated for nearly three years, finalized an acrimonious and very public divorce that was followed by a bitter custody battle. Throughout the season Wade flew back and forth between Miami and Chicago to fight for custody of their two sons in court. And in March 2011 he was granted full custody of Zaire and Zion, who now live with him in Miami, along with one of his nephews. It's the role he takes most seriously of all.