Dwyane Wade’s off-court work with the community of Parkland and the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the aftermath of last month’s mass shooting has earned him a spot as a finalist for the Pro Basketball Writers Association’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
Wade, 36, was named a finalist alongside Houston’s James Harden, Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony, Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Dallas’ J.J. Barea.
The honor, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Wade, who visited Douglas on the students’ first day back at school and spent time with the students, teachers and administrators to learn more about their initiatives and how he could be involved. “I’m sure each individual that’s a finalist is honored for it. You don’t do it for that reason. You do it for what’s in your heart, but it’s definitely an honor.”
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▪ Anthony helped raise more than $450,000 for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and his foundation delivered emergency hygiene kits, shoes and over 100,000 pounds of food and water to those affected by the storm.
▪ Barea coordinated five trips to Puerto Rico to aid in relief efforts, borrowing the Mavericks’ team plane from owner Mark Cuban to deliver much-needed supplies in the days following the storm. He personally raised nearly $500,000 for families impacted by the storm.
▪ In his effort to help at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds through educational, athletic and social programs, Durant’s foundation made a 10-year, $10 million commitment to bring College Track’s college completion program to Durant’s hometown in Maryland, creating The Durant Center, a new state-of-the-art educational and leadership facility.
▪ Harden, meanwhile, donated $1 million to the Houston’s relief efforts following the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and partnered with Chris Paul to present students impacted by the storm with backpacks stuffed with books and school supplies.
▪ Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, donated $200,000 to help youngsters in Chicago join the Parkland students’ March for Our Lives movement in Washington, D.C., in an effort to end gun violence and called for other NBA players to help join the cause, recently receiving commitments from Anthony and others.
He also dedicated a special exhibit called “Parkland 17” in the art district of Wynwood. One of the 17 victims in the tragedy, Joaquin Oliver, was buried in a Wade jersey. Wade has since written Joaquin’s name on his shoes every game, met privately with Joaquin’s family and has dedicated the remainder of the season in Joaquin’s honor.
“I think his platform that he has here in South Florida is one of the most special things about his legacy,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who visited Parkland with a handful of other Heat players earlier this month. “He has that platform in Chicago and he has it worldwide. But Dwyane sees and understands that the success that he’s had as a professional basketball player can extend and be so powerful in so many other places, to be able to give back and to be able to help people that need it.
“And in this community you’re seeing it right now just with his support of the whole Stoneman Douglas community up there in Parkland. It’s not just words with him. It’s actions. He’s out there really lending his support and his voice to give them a bigger megaphone. Dwyane is first class. He’s a special, special dude.”
The Heat has had two previous winners of the Kennedy Citizenship Award: Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning (2001-02) and former power forward P.J. Brown (1996-97).
Other former and current Heat players also won the award while playing for other teams: LeBron James (2016-17), Wayne Ellington (2015-16), Luol Deng (2013-14), Brian Grant (1998-99), Steve Smith (1997-98) and Rory Sparrow (1985-86).
Wade said seeing the work Mourning did in the community — and other teammates — inspired him to become more involved through the years.
“Being here in this franchise, not only seeing the organization do amazing things in the community, I got an opportunity to see a mentor in Alonzo do things with his foundation,” Wade said. “And I got an opportunity for three years to team up with him to do some things at Zo’s Summer Groove and all the things we did together. I definitely took notes of the success he had away from the game.”