Dwyane Wade will do whatever he can to help his kids accomplish their dreams.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the former Miami Heat player opened up about his son Zaire and the 18-year-old’s dream of following in his dad’s footsteps by making it to the NBA.
The father of four — who is also the legal guardian of nephew Dahveon Morris, 18 — says that when it comes to Zaire’s goals, he is a hands-on dad.
“Definitely not taking a backseat,” Wade, 38, tells PEOPLE. “I’m in the passenger’s seat, but I’m definitely not in the backseat. He’s in the driver’s seat.”
The retired basketball star adds that he tries to remind his son “his path just may not be the same as people around him.”
“If basketball is the ultimate goal, then I’m just trying to help him along the way, understanding there’s so many different ways to get to this goal,” he says. “It’s not just one way, it’s not go through high school, be a superstar. Go into college, be a superstar. Get drafted No. 1 and now you’re there.”
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Wade himself committed to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2001 and played for the Golden Eagles until 2003, when he skipped his senior year and entered the NBA draft that year. He became the fifth pick in the 2003 draft by the Miami Heat, whom he played with for the majority of his NBA career.
“There’s so many different ways to get to the NBA or to get that path,” Wade tells PEOPLE. “So, [I’m] just trying to help him navigate through expectations that the world has put on him, and that he puts on himself because of his last name.”
While Zaire may feel some pressure with carrying the Wade last name, the teen also loves to “lean in” to having one of the most dominant basketball players as his dad.
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“He’s definitely not embarrassed by me. When it’s time, he knows how to lean into, ‘Hey, that’s my dad,’ ” Wade says. “He definitely knows how to lean into that. So, no, he’s not embarrassed.”
“There’s moments where I embarrass him sometimes on purpose, and sometimes just because I’m older and I’m not as cool as I used to be,” he adds with a laugh.
Wade — who is also father to daughter Kaavia James, 15 months, Zaya, 12 and son Xavier, 6 — also recently dropped by Watch What Happens Live, where he talked to host Andy Cohen about how he reigns in his emotions when watching Zaire on the court.
“I self-talk all the time,” he revealed. “I’m sitting over there and I’m like [to myself], ‘Don’t go crazy. Don’t go over there and choke the coach. Don’t go whup him up. Don’t go kick him. Don’t be this rough a– right now.’ “
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“I think I probably have more self-talk than LeBron, but he probably exerts more into the energy of the arena,” Wade continued, referencing former teammate LeBron James, who’s 15-year-old son LeBron Raymone Jr., a.k.a. “Bronny,” plays on the same high school basketball team as Zaire.
The basketball dad continued, “But I talk to myself over there [saying], ‘Go sit down. Don’t get up, don’t get up. Okay, all right, cool, your son didn’t get in, don’t go put him in.’ Stuff like that. I just talk like that. Self-talk.”
Wade is currently preparing for the upcoming release of a raw and comprehensive new documentary about his life — before and after he became one of the NBA’s most dominant players. He retired from professional basketball last April, after 16 years in the NBA.
The documentary airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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