On Sunday night while waiting with my daughter to watch the premier of the much talked about documentary, Dark Girls, on the Oprah Winfrey Network, I caught the tail-end of Oprah's interview with the Miami Heat triumvirate - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - the three star athletes who brought the Heat its second National Basketball Association championship.
The men were charming and witty and used the opportunity to share with the world the secrets to playing together as a unit and to talk about their relationship as friends off the court.
Following the group interview, Oprah interviewed the superstar athletes individually. Digging deeper into their personal lives, Oprah questioned the reigning champs about the people who were instrumental to their success and about the people in their lives who made the win last Thursday night a tad bit sweeter.
The men each highlighted the important role family members played in their rise to the top. For a moment I thought Chris Bosh's super-cute one year-old son, Jackson Bosh would steal my heart. But it was Dwyane Wade's story that pulled on my heart strings and almost brought me to tears.
Dwyane Wade -- or "D. Wade" as he's affectionately known -- talked about growing up on the Southside of Chicago in a family that was less than "perfect." At a young age his older sister left him on his dad's porch hoping he would take better care of Dwayne than his mom, JoLinda, was capable of doing at the time. His dad introduced him to basketball and the rest of the story is history.
Dwyane's mom, as he described her on the show, "was addicted to everything." Wade's mother smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol and used heroin and cocaine. On occasions his mother would leave her family, forcing her young son to stay up at night, hoping he would hear her voice in the street or the door opening- signaling that his mom had made it home. At times young Wade would go searching the Southside of Chicago to find his mom and remembers his grandma sitting on the porch praying for his missing mother to come home to her children.
What is special about this story and about Dwyane is that his mom was one of the many people he credited for his success.
The overjoyed mama, now a minister, was sporting a tee-shirt that read, "D. Wade's Mom." She was clearly a proud mother but the statement that was the tear jerker was Dwyane's declaration that his mom was his hero, despite what he's been through and what his mom overcame. For him, losing a basketball game or a world championship game pales in comparison to his mom's triumph over problematic drug use.
Dwyane's love and compassion and lack of judgment of his mother's past actions -- underscored his humanity and made him instantly my hero.
With so many children in America growing up with parents who have struggled with drug use and are struggling in their own way to make sense of their experiences, D. Wade's testimony was a breath of fresh air.
Too often, our loved ones are judged, stigmatized and marginalized for not living up to our ideals. Dwyane, you are a champ on and off the court. You are my hero!
Yolande Cadore is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
This Piece First Appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog: http://www.drugpolicy.org/