Business lore often recounts how the start of a big idea for a company was scribbled on a cocktail napkin. For Dwyane Wade, it was a lunch at Chili’s.
At Variety and Sports Illustrated’s Sports and Entertainment Summit held at Vibiana in Los Angeles on Thursday, the basketball star and his CAA agent, Lisa Joseph Metelus, recalled how they began plotting his move beyond the court after his rookie year with the Miami Heat. At the time, Wade could boast only a $500,000 deal with Converse. “That was a lot of money at the time, too,” he said.
Then in 2007, while recuperating from shoulder and knee surgeries and rejoicing in his first NBA championship, Wade endured an existentialist crisis at age 25. “I didn’t know if I’d ever be the same again,” he said. Despite the half-dozen national ad campaigns he fronted, he told Joseph Metelus: “I want more. I want to do out-of-the-box things.”
Flash forward nine years. After winning two additional NBA titles with the Heat and an Olympic gold medal, writing a New York Times best-selling book, hosting “Live With Kelly” and inking numerous design and ad endorsements with brands such as Hublot, Li-Ning and The Tie Bar, the 34-year-old shooting guard is readying for a move to the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team that he aims to lead toward a championship in the same way that his friend and former teammate LeBron James did with the Cleveland Cavaliers last month.
“Nothing is going to replace 20,000 people screaming your name, 20,000 people booing you,” he said. “I loved it as a competitor.”
Still, he continues to take to heart the business advice that Earvin “Magic” Johnson once gave him. The revered player and philanthropist told him to make a list of all ideas — even stupid ones — that he wants to pursue with his agents and managers. “Send it to them. Put them to work,” Johnson told him. “And he does it — often,” Joseph Metelus said of her inbox filled with messages from Wade.
The list hangs on a bulletin board in the sports agent’s office. “Maybe we accomplished one thing off the list,” she said, noting that they’ve completed other ambitious projects. Some of Wade’s ideas included ventures on college campuses and food retail, she said. “It was all over the place,” she said. It’s also a testament to what differentiates Wade from other pro athletes. “He’s special because he’s open.”
Wade’s also open to taking a stand, as he did on Wednesday night at the opening of the ESPY Awards with fellow NBA players James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul to urge for an end to gun violence and racial injustice. Aware of the legions of fans who look up to athletes, he was following the footsteps of athletes-turned-activists such as Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“It was a worldly message,” he said. “It’s bigger than basketball. Obviously, there’s been a lot of tragic incidents. We have a huge platform.”