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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Dwyane Wade grew up in Chicago idolizing Michael Jordan.
While Wade may not have achieved the amazing heights that Jordan did, the Robbins, Illinois native is a lock to join his idol in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
Remarkably, Wade’s journey from chilly Chicago to sunny South Florida is just as amazing as his NBA career.
It all started in a house on the south side of Chicago, off of 59th and Prairie.
That’s where from a young age Wade was battling more than just the snowy weather of the windy city.
Wade was living in one of the toughest Chicago suburbs, and his mother Jolinda was battling drug and alcohol abuse, eventually ending up in jail.
CBS4 caught up with his sister Tragil in his last trip to Chicago and she summed up their journey out in one word.
“A miracle, that’s all that I can call it,” she said. “To be where we’re at today, it’s nothing but a miracle.”
Jolinda would be a success story in her own right.
Getting clean and turning to a life of ministry in a church that Wade would one day buy for her.
But it was Tragil who took 9-year-old Dwyane away from his mom and sent him to live with his father in Robbins. He not only found a new home. He found a dream.
Before he could even enroll at HL Richards High School, Wade was on the radar of head basketball coach Jack Fitzgerald. Jack at the time was coaching Wade’s older brother.
“There was nobody babysitting him so I took him to Sunday practice,” Fitzgerald said. “We were doing an 11-man break drill and we were down a couple of guys. We only had ten and his brother Demetrius says ‘why don’t you let him participate’ and I said ‘c’mon.’ I think he was only in 7th grade at the time. He got in the drill and I went over to Demetrius and I said ‘this guy’s pretty good, you got any more brothers at home?’”
As a junior, Wade was fearless and his confidence grew greater and greater with each drive through the lane.
Wade took HL Richards – a football powerhouse – and put it on the basketball map, winning a pair of conference titles.
But to say schools were lining up for his services would be a stretch. He did however catch the eye of Marquette and head coach Tom Crean.
“I had three scholarship offers, maybe 2 and a half. One of them was like eh,” Wade said. “[Crean] brought a cap and gown into the home meeting and his goal was for me to graduate. I never had nobody ever talk to me about those things with me and believe I could do those things.”
“He didn’t want to play too far away from his house because he wanted his mother to see him play in college, so he really limited it,” said Fitzgerald. “And really he fell in love with Marquette pretty fast.”
Wade was a Prop 48 kid, meaning his low test scores would keep him off the court during his freshman season. A skinny, shy teenager took it as an opportunity to branch out.
“I took drama class in college, I took public speaking, I took all these things to help me to communicate better,” Wade said. “To talk in front of a large group of people. I was planning for this moment in 2000.”
He may not have known it at the time but he was preparing for big moment after big moment.
By his junior year, Dwayne Wade had elevated yet another basketball program. The Golden Eagles went all the way to the NCAA Final Four in 2003.
“The run was special,” he said. “It was special for the city of Milwaukee. It was special for this university and for each individual. Each one of our coaches. A lot of people got promotions. Jobs. Raises. Leaving that Final Four I got a big raise.”
The money was about to roll in for the All-American, but like many of us we look back on college days as some of our best memories.
“The things that you miss most and the things that stick out most are the things that most people don’t see because it’s the interaction that goes on in the locker room,” said Wade. “It’s Travis Diener and me rooming on the road and I got 9 pillows on my head because I was snoring. Or I wake up and he’s sleeping in the tub because I was snoring so bad.”
Soon Wade could afford his own room. After leaving Marquette, he began preparing for the draft and working out for teams like the Miami Heat.
Everyone knew LeBron James was going number one, but after that it was anyone’s guess. Unless you ask one his old coaches.
“All the Chicago papers were predicting he was going to be picked by Chicago at number seven,” said Fitzgerald. “But I got a call from Stan Van Gundy at the time before I left on the plane the next day and he had talked about Dwyane and what kind of kid he was. So I hung up the phone and I said to my wife I think the Heat are going to take this guy at five.”
Jack was right. There was Wade in New York City.
A long ways away from the subway running past his child hood home. On his way to the NBA.
“I was very excited about the pick to Miami,” Wade said during a 2003 interview. “I just prayed to god that whole time that I’d get picked here and I did so my wish – it was granted.”