By Ellen McGirt
April 9, 2019

“You are more than basketball.”

This was the powerful message in a touching new ad released by Budweiser in honor of NBA star Dwayne Wade’s final season with the Miami Heat. If you don’t want to ugly cry at your desk, then save this one for later.

The ad features five people thanking Wade for the role he played in their lives, and sheds light on the causes he cares about: A woman whose brother died in the Parkland shooting; a woman who could only afford college because Wade paid her tuition; a man on the wrong track until Wade’s life story helped him to reach higher; and a Miami-area woman he took shopping after her family lost everything in a pre-Christmas house fire.

But it is Jolinda Wade, Dwayne’s mother, who offers the final and most meaningful tribute.

“You were the joy of my life, but I was dropping the ball.”

Jolinda’s story – from prison to neighborhood savior – is best told by this extraordinary profile by Eli Saslow for The Undefeated:

For decades, it had been Diann who worked to rescue younger sister Jolinda. They had grown up sharing a bedroom in a small rental house on the South Side of Chicago, two of nine children raised by their mother during the ravages of the drug war. All nine siblings eventually became addicts, but none fell quite as fast as Jolinda: from cheap wine, on to marijuana, on to cocaine, on to heroin. Meanwhile, the youngest of her four children, Dwyane, was born in 1982, around the time Jolinda began selling drugs herself. By the time he turned 8, Jolinda was failing to pay rent and trading the family’s monthly food stamp allotment to support her drug habit. She sent Dwyane to live with his father across town, then began disappearing herself.

Jolinda Wade is now Pastor Wade, thanks to a church her son bought for her and her own deep commitment to the healing power of love. But as she traveled a road she thought she’d never come back from, it was her baby Dwayne who first kept the faith, she says. “You kept showing up. And you’d come see about me.”

Wade’s good works have been quiet and deeply personal, driven what I imagine must be a profound sense of empathy and a strong belief in justice.I look forward to what’s next in Wade’s world. But for now, enjoy his sweet farewell.

Bring tissues.

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