Chicago Bulls Have a New Hometown Hero in Dwyane Wade

Apr 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) dribbles the ball as Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) dribbles the ball as Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

In a period of transition, new addition Dwyane Wade is the hometown hero that Chicago Bulls fans need to rally behind.

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Before the three NBA championships, the fame and the eight-figure contracts, Dwyane Wade was just a kid from the South Side of Chicago who faced an uncertain future because of the inequitable situation life had dealt him and his family.

Does this narrative sound familiar?

Wade’s rags to riches success story from an impoverished neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago to the NBA mirrors the very story that made Chicago fall in love with Derrick Rose when the Bulls drafted him in 2008.

Time sometimes erases the memory of past circumstance and this has become the case for Wade. At 34 years old, NBA fans now associate him with the fame, money and championships that have become the reality of his new life.

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A seldom mentioned backstory makes Wade’s current celebrity status that much more remarkable.

Born in a poor neighborhood, Wade’s parents divorced when he was just four months old. Wade’s mother, Jolinda, was given custody of the children; however, her addiction to multiple substances of abuse made her unsuitable at the time as a caregiver to her children.

In a November 2010 interview with Charisma Magazine, Jolinda revealed how bad things were for herself and her children during this period of her life.

"After the breakup with Dwyane’s dad I became addicted to heroin, cocaine, alcohol and cigarettes. I had all four of those devils beating me down. I was selling drugs out of my apartment and letting people do drugs there. Didn’t nobody know that a little kid named Dwyane Wade Jr. was who he was."

As a child, Wade dealt with his mother’s visible substance addictions, police raids into his house and the allure of gang life.

At the age of nine, he moved in with his father, Dwyane Wade, Sr., who was a former drill sergeant in the military. The positive influence of his father and several of his siblings allowed Dwyane Jr. to choose sports to escape from his difficult situation rather than nefarious activities.

"Moving in with my dad at the age of 9 was probably the most important part of my life. That was at the point and the age that I needed that male voice. I needed the discipline. I needed someone to look at and say, ‘I want to be like you.’"

Wade’s upbringing mirrors that of Rose, who also grew up in an impoverished, gang-ridden neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Through each player’s own will power and the help of a select number of influential mentors, they were able to escape these unfortunate circumstances and make a great life for themselves as NBA stars.

Their stories inspire thousands of people who face similar circumstances and need validation that they too can make their lives better through hard work and determination.

However, the Derrick Rose narrative eventually grew stale, for reasons in and out of his control.

Three major knee injuries, several botched press conferences, a rape allegation and his failure to win a championship, turned many fans off from their formerly exalted hero. Bulls fans needed a fresh face to root for; a guy that possessed all the rags to riches appeal of Derrick Rose, but without all the unnecessary baggage.

The June trade that sent Rose to the New York Knicks further diminished his legend from the perspective of Chicago Bulls fans.

Enter Dwyane Wade, a player with a championship pedigree and solid personal character without the baggage that stunted Rose’s popularity with some of his hometown fans. Wade is a perfect person for Rose to pass the metaphorical torch to as the hometown hero of this franchise. Wade seems well equipped to handle the hometown hero role in Chicago.

Since 2003, Wade’s personal charity (Wade’s World Foundation) has “provide[d] support to community-based organizations that promote education, health and social skills for children in at-risk situations. (quoted material found on Wade’s World Foundation website).” His charitable work has impacted mostly the South Florida and Chicago communities.

In terms of community impact through charitable action, Wade should pick up right where Rose left off. Although much of his charitable work wasn’t documented publicly, the good Rose did for Chicago through monetary donations, mentoring the youth and social activism undoubtedly made his community a better place.

Wade’s championship pedigree — a bullet point that Rose doesn’t have on his resume — also makes him appealing as a hometown hero in Chicago.

Wade’s story is something that Chicago fans can draw inspiration from. It serves as a personal anecdote that makes his appeal as a hometown hero even stronger.

At 34 years old, Wade is well past the prime of his career. However, that has no baring on his capability to inspire and serve as a role model for the people of Chicago. Chicago needs a hero, not only one that does great things on the court and in the community, but one that has a backstory that fans can relate to and use as inspiration for their own lives.

Wade checks all of these boxes, just like Derrick Rose once did.