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Sportsman of the Year: DWYANE WADE
S.L. PRICE
December 11, 2006
Is there an athlete with more positive energy than the 24-year-old guard? He pulled the Heat out of a deep playoff hole, helped put the shine back on a tarnished league and lifted his mom out of her own personal hell
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December 11, 2006

Sportsman Of The Year: Dwyane Wade

Is there an athlete with more positive energy than the 24-year-old guard? He pulled the Heat out of a deep playoff hole, helped put the shine back on a tarnished league and lifted his mom out of her own personal hell

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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 fact, in July he signed a three-year contract extension that, including an option for a fourth year, could pay him up to $62 million. (This season he's making $3.84 million with a pretax 10%, $384,000 going to his church in Chicago.) "God has blessed me with so many great earthly things," Wade says. "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. "A lot of times I'll look at that and say, 'Was that a good idea though?'" Tragil says of starting a family so young. "I tell him to think about it: You can't fix what happened to us with your own life."

But damned if Wade isn't going to try. He gave Zaire the middle name of Blessing, and Siohvaughn is expecting their second child. Just as he believes in the salvation of family, Wade is clear-sighted about the work it takes to keep the family whole. For high school sweethearts, sharing a lifetime together is hard enough without adding the explosive properties of fame, big money and a parade of groupies. "I pray," Siohvaughn says. "I do a lot of praying."

"If she wasn't scared she wouldn't have feelings," Wade says. "If it was the other way around, and she blew up famous? I'd be nervous. It's my job to keep her not scared; I've got to let her know that I'm here for her just like she's always been there for me. Hopefully it's forever. You take those vows, you say forever, you want it to be forever. I know things happen. A lot of people say, 'Don't you wish, when you came in the league, that you were single in Miami?' You know what? There's times in a young man's life when you want freedom, when you want to be by yourself, but I also understand when times get hard--because they do get hard--she's always there to back me up. She's always there to hug me and say, 'It's going to be O.K.' Those are the moments I look at her and know: It's all worth it."

But here's the factor, more than any other, that may decide if Dwyane Wade can survive even success: he likes difficulty. Ease makes him anxious. Perfect makes him squirm. But set him up with an early childhood from hell? Put him in a two-game hole in the Finals? He dares you to doubt him. Last month injuries to Shaq and Jason Williams sent Miami into free fall. With Wade carrying the load alone, the Heat went 7-9, lost to the lowly New York Knicks by 24 at home, gave no hint of a champion's edge. Publicly, Wade pronounced himself frustrated. But he was far from unhappy.

"To me, it's the bad moments that make a person," he says. "You're going to fall. It's how you get up that defines you as a man. Anybody can be great in life when things are going good. What about when things are going bad? This is what I like because this is how I'll know what kind of team I have. This is how I know what kind of player I am. How are we going to find a way to overcome this? That's going to decide whether we're a championship team and whether I'm a good player or great. I love it. It's my life."

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