NBA champion Dwyane Wade is back for season 2 as the host of the Intense, high-energy, high-stakes competition show The Cube. The TBS game show will feature some of our favorite celebrities competing to win money for their charities. This season, his wife, Gabrielle Union, shows off her skills alongside La La Anthony in the first episode. Other celebrity guests will come in throughout the season to compete, including NBA Legend Shaquille Oneal, CMA winner, and country music star Jimmie Allen and NBA champion Iman Shupert. It’s a season filled with laughs and will be sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. But it’s what Wade is doing off-camera that has the world interested.
Since his retirement, Wade has become the poster child for fatherhood and marriage. Additionally, he’s one heck of an advocate. In recent years, he’s emerged to lend his voice to several issues that hit close to home, primarily surrounding women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ issues in support and love of his teenage daughter Zaya. Despite backlash from some, Wade keeps his head held high and his voice loud and clear.
His businesses are also booming. With a new Broadway play, Wade is showing that an athlete’s brand extends beyond the court and sports. Ahead of The Cube‘s season 2 premiere, Shadow and Act Unscripted spoke with him about his transition from the NBA to hosting and some of his career highlights. He also dished on his advocacy work.
‘The Cube’ is back for season 2 on TBS. In the first hosting season, what are some of the things that you learned about being a television personality that you used for Season 2?
DW: I’ve been very honest about this. I’ve learned right away that I had no idea what I was doing. And it’s not as easy as it looks. You think you could just take your shot at being a TV personality on TV and just make it work. I had a lot of work to do, and I had a lot of research to do on just how I wanted the show to feel, and to understand. I opened my mind to make sure that I was coachable and listened to all the people around me that have been trying to help me. I thought in season 2, we all did a better job. I think I came back as a better host and just realized that I am a great host in life. I was trying to be this TV guy, and I had to kind of get away from that and just do it the Wade way. And I had a great time doing that. And as I always say, the contestants we brought on this season, they have some amazing stories and storylines. And it made it interesting for me to even get into their lives and try to learn about them. I got an opportunity to talk about why they’re there. So, in the audience at home and fall in love with them.
There are so many game shows on so many different networks. I would even say that the market is oversaturated because they are so popular. What do you think sets ‘The Cube’ apart from all of the others that we have to choose from?
DW: Well, we’re trying to get there. I don’t know if I have that answer to say what sets us apart. Right. We’re in season 2 of this and we’re trying to learn our audience. We’re trying to continue to try to bring a new audience. I think we did a great job from season 1 to season 2 of listening probably to some of the things that we need to get better at. And I think we got tighter on those things. Ana as the host, I’m sure the whole season will get better. But, I just we just try to make it a show that’s for people who want to watch The Cube. You can’t get everybody. We’re not trying to. We can’t get the whole world in. It’s a show for everybody, it’s a show for every community. This show has been a success for the U.K. for a reason, because the concept is incredible. It’s lighthearted, it’s family, it’s fun, but is also challenging. We just want people to fall in love with what the content is on the show, with their stories, with the fun that we seem to be having on the show. On their Sunday night with something else that’s going to make them smile before they go to sleep, before they start their Monday.
S&A: Do you have a personal history with game shows or are you super duper competitive? We obviously know you from the NBA and as an athlete, you’re naturally competitive. But are you a game night freak that made you want to host a show like this?
DW: I’m 40 now, so growing up in the 90s, it was a lot of game shows so it was the era I grew up in and not saying I wanted to be a game show host. I’m not as good as a Wayne Brady, or Steve Harvey, but I did love the fact that it looked like it changed people’ss lives. I watched Wheel of Fortune, I watched Family Feud. I watched all these shows. I am from Chicago and I talk about ot all the timebut there was a show that aired in Chicago called The Puzzle Shop. I loved that show. I just knew I was going to get on the show one day and I was going to save my family and make us a fortune. There probably was like $100,000 prize, but as a kid, I was like, ‘We are going to be rich.’ And so I think that the love of game shows came from the era I grew up in. And when this opportunity presented itself to me, it was not something I jumped at right away. Because immediately you go to what’s scary about it and it’s something you’ve never done before. But to take the time to think about it, I was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly what we need right now. It is exactly what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of joy.’ It’s bringing some form of joy.
Thinking back to your time in the NBA, one of the things that we love is that you’ve done a great job of expanding your brand outside of sports. Because before, we would hear stories about athletes who would go broke right immediately after retirement. But thankfully, that has changed with your generation. At what point do you begin to start thinking about life outside of basketball and preparing for your transition?
DW: I’ve been through a lot in my in my short period of time in this world and in this spotlight that I have. I think it’s moments in your life that will force you to get your stuff straight or try to learn more about, the things that matter, such as in your finances and your family’s fortunes and all those things. So going through a divorce at 24, that will make you open up your books a little bit and learn. Injuries, having torn my shoulder up, and I tore my knee. I didn’t know if I’d ever be the same after my injuries. I’ve always thought outside of basketball from those big those moments that happened in my life. I started focusing on the after life, because when you go through those moments, you’re not in the afterlife but you in the next phase of your life. Your phone is not ringing that much when you are laying up in the bed after your shoulder surgery, you got knee surgery or going through drama. I had a little taste of what the next side was going to be. And it was going to be that if I didn’t take care of my business. My phone was going to be ringing enough and I wanted to make sure that I had opportunities when I got done playing. I tried to at that time to change my mindset, stop saying no to doing something and fear things, and start going out and trying things and saying what I’m good at and what I suck at, but also allowing people to see me in these different arenas as well.
S&A: You’ve also put family and fatherhood at the forefront of your life and your brand, and you’ve really become an advocate for several issues that continue to plague America, one of which is the fertility struggle. And I really appreciate you and Gabrielle’s candor about journey, about you guys’ journey to parenthood and specifically stepping in to say that there were other options to achieve that dream without risking her physical and mental health. How do you feel is it that you guys’ openness has added to the conversation, especially in Black households?
DW: To be honest, I don’t know. You get a few people come up to you, maybe come here and there. We really don’t know unless someone approaches us. I think we do understand that it’s a responsibility when you go a microphone, whether you want it or not, you have some form of responsibility. And we’ve taken our responsibility as the things that we go through. We know we’re not the only ones going through it and dealing with it, no matter if it’s the most popular thing or not. Because we live in this world where eyes open is all we know. There are so many different struggles. So we’re sharing our struggle, with the next person or people. And, because we have this microphone and because we know we there are families out There, we sell things that the people go and buy product from us. It’s our duty to make sure that we get more than just show up sign autographs and take some photos and say, ‘Hey, buy this.’ It’s our duty to make sure we live a way that we can help people. Our way is through what we go through in life. And what we do in real-time. We just share those things and we’re very open about it, but it’s not comfortable at the same time because we know the world, we live in there is going to be a lot of opinions. but at the same time, it’s bigger than that. And so, it’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly.
You also jumped in on the conversation of equal pay for women when Gabrielle was going through her battle with America’s Got Talent.
DW: Oh, yes.
Pay remains a major issue for us. So what else can men in power do to assist in the fight for pay equity for women?
DW: What we always try to do and, what I’ve seen others do is using your voice is obviously important, right? And that’s great. Using your voice is phenomenal. But when you are in positions of power, when you are sitting at the head of a table, you have to do the exact same thing. You have to make sure that their own looks different and the payments are different. We all need to make change, if you will, at the table to make change yourself. And so that’s the goal. We all have to continue to get into the positions of power so we can continue to employ, continue to create jobs and create opportunities and ideas and all these things. And so we are in a position to be able to change that. We can tweet about it, we can scream it to the rooftops, but that does nothing unless your actually in a position to really actually act on it yourself.
And we also love and appreciate your support of Zaya and being at the forefront of LGBTQ+ civil rights. As someone who has a young nephew in the community, I empathize. Because of your platform, obviously you mentioned that it comes with so much criticism. So how are you learning to navigate or balance what’s worth sharing and what’s worth doing things privately?
DW: Well, that’s tough. That’s the balance. I think first for me, I’m just an advocate for love. I mean, we can talk about all the things that we have in common in this world, and it’s a lot of things. But ultimately, we all are trying to reach the same thing. We all want to be loved. And I’m an advocate for that. I support my daughter. I support her community because of that, because of me and my love for her and my love for understanding the community that I never had the exposure to growing up. So, it’s so much to learn. It is so much education and needs to happen. And I don’t think enough people are taking the time to really educate themselves. It’s unfortunate, but that’s a part of this world. We got to continue to keep educating. We got to continue to keep doing what we do, supporting and being allies and whatever that looks like for our family. It’s just unfortunate that my 15 year old daughter has to go through public conversations about her sex and gender. No 15 year old should have to deal with that. But this is a part of her story. And we’re trying to write the story the way that we want to. We want to hear it not the way that others want to write it. So we’ve got a lot more work to do. And I’m excited, too, to watch Zaya grow into her voice because a lot of people right now, they don’t get the chance to hear her, they just hear us. You know, there’s a powerful force coming.
Well we can’t wait to see it. And you guys are doing an amazing job. So, going back to the game show, not only are you getting into hosting, but you guys are also producing as well now, which I love. You guys have Ain’t No Mo’ on Broadway. I thought that was an interesting choice for you to venture into. Do you feel as if it’s important to champion and uplift Black creatives by cosigning a project like this?
DW: There you go. You just said it is. You know, it’s Black creators everywhere. It’s not just one arena where Black creators live. There’s an NBA, a live all around and we can be. So we get an opportunity to be a part of history. You better jump in. Don’t be afraid to be a part of history. And you know what? Jordan Cooper and Lee Daniels and the entire cast, everybody at the production, the whole production team. You know what I watched on Dec. 1st was incredible. I’ve never seen a guaranteed Broadway studio. I have never been allowed before. It was just us. To give them an opportunity to speak and have a platform to speak about their journey and to speak to us. And I really love the fact it was a very mixed audience as well. It wasn’t just all Black people. So I loved that other people were there to listen to the story. It’s written by and created by a great playwright, one of the greatest is Jordan Cooper. So my wife and I are a super happy we got to be able to amplify Black voices no matter how we do it.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you that my brother is your biggest fan, you’re his favorite NBA player, and he just turned 25 and he texted me and he said, ‘You have to ask him this question.’ He wanted to know, what is the highlight of your career in the NBA and what is your favorite championship that you won and played in?
DW: I think they continue to change. As you get older, you get farther and farther away from it. So I go with the championship first. I think my favorite has been persistently the first one, 2006. For me individually, it was the first time I won. I was standing at the end as a champion. I’ve gotten to the final four in college, we did the final four in high school old conference champions, but never won state. I’ve never held a trophy. I’ve never been responsible for taking a thing to the other side. And I was responsible as one of the leaders to do that. And so that will always be my favorite championship. Now, the other part of the question, was what again?
What is the highlight of your NBA career?
DW: There’s so many personal highlights as you go through it. I think to sum it up, I would say, to be able to get drafted, to live that dream and walk on stage, grab a hat and I think David Stern’s pants. But to also be able to walk off the court with my family wrapped around me when I decided to walk away from the game. It’s a beauty. I couldn’t control my destiny when I got drafted. I didn’t know where I was going. I don’t know anything that I would do to control the way I walked away from the game. And so just the beauty of that for me is my favorite part of the art. And everything from the start to the finish that’s in the middle is some amazing chapters in there. And there are a bad one, too, but that’s just kind of awesome.