A little more than a month after Dwyane Wade purchased a small share in the Utah Jazz, he landed in the state for Game 1 of last season’s NBA playoffs. Almost immediately, a crisis hit.
The start of their postseason quickly turned into a crucible for the franchise. All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell was ruled out with a right ankle injury despite proclaiming himself ready to play. Utah’s choice to keep him out incensed Mitchell. As the Jazz sought to pacify Mitchell, Wade saw the difference between watching the games as an outsider and as a part of an ownership group.
When he learned of the brewing storm, Wade says he turned to Ryan Smith, the team’s governor and majority shareholder and also new to the organization, with a message: “All right, we gotta put our big boy pants on and figure out how it’s going to be.”
Wade had already grown close to Mitchell over the years. They share an agency and a strong relationship. While they talk often — Wade calls him a “brother” — now Wade had to approach him from a different perspective.
“That was my first time talking to him with my ownership hat on,” Wade told The Athletic. “Even though I’m still big bro, but I’m on the other side. It was different. I think it was different for Don, and it was different for me. But ultimately, any time that my opportunity came to speak, I just tried to be honest. And try to give my vision and my version. I think Don appreciated that. I think that’s why even though I’m on the other side we can continue to have the relationship that we have, where he reached out to me as big bro even though I’m on the other side.”
That night grew to be a learning experience for Wade, the reality of what the management side of an NBA team looks like and a quick introduction into his new life in the league. While Wade had a prolific 16-year playing career — he was just named one of the 75 greatest players in the league’s history — he makes The Athletic’s 40 under 40 list for his growing influence as a Jazz minority owner and for serving as a model of how to make a smooth transition into a post-playing career. Wade holds several day jobs, not only in Utah, but also as an analyst at Turner Sports and as host of his own game show, among several others.
His role with the Jazz keeps him planted in the NBA. There is a difference between being a media voice who discusses the league and someone with a voice on the inside, and Wade has both.