Zaire Wade, son of Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade, officially signed for the Basketball Africa League (BAL) with South African side Cape Town Tigers on Friday, the day before his 21st birthday.
While the BAL may be seen by some as a step down from the lofty heights scaled by his father, a three-time NBA champion, the eldest of the Wade kids is simply relieved to have signed another professional contract.
Nearly 11 months after he suffered a season-ending knee injury and was waived by G League team Salt Lake City Stars, he has proven to himself that his worst fear – his professional basketball career being over – was not his fate.
Zaire Wade, a 6ft1in point guard, told ESPN: “You know, everybody has their doubts. You go through adversity and stuff like that.
“I think getting back to work and showing where I was at mentally really showed me that I could have the opportunity to potentially showcase my talent elsewhere, playing professionally in another country.”
Zaire added that his father did play a role in the move to one of the world’s most popular tourist cities, but in an advisory capacity that allowed 21-year-old the freedom to make the final call.
Wade said: “When I was younger, maybe I wouldn’t have thought that I would have went to Salt Lake and then over to Cape Town, but I think that’s what the journey is all about – life puts you in great situations and great places you never would have expected.
“I’m just grateful that he [his father] gave me that freedom to go ahead and make decisions.”
On why he chose the Tigers, who were eliminated in last year’s quarter-finals, he said: “I think we had a mutual feeling when we first saw each other. That was one team that I definitely did my research on heading into [the BAL Combine in] Paris.
“A lot of people told me about the BAL and that was the team that stood out to me, their playing style – I know they have a great coach from Brooklyn [co-owner Raphael Edwards].”
Edwards, in turn, echoed BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall’s praise of Zaire Wade’s ability to make his teammates look good.
Edwards told ESPN: “I watched a bunch of films and then I saw some highlights of him and saw how he was distributing the ball. I grew up playing basketball in New York City and those old school point guards could really pass. That was something I noticed from jump.
“The way our team is set up – we’re set up with a lot of scorers that have been coached on how to distribute the ball and how to pass the ball and the pocket passes and the next available quick swings. That’s all good, but when I saw Zee, it was just really natural how he was distributing the ball.”
The Tigers, who last year featured the likes of Cleanthony Early and Billy Preston, plan to finish their BAL preparation in Johannesburg and details are still being ironed out regarding when, precisely, their new signing will join the team.
The first leg of the 2023 tournament, the Sahara Conference in Dakar, will tip off on March 11 and finish on March 21. The Nile Conference in Cairo will follow from April 26 – May 6, before the four best teams in each conference advance to the playoffs in Kigali (May 21-28).