Dwyane Wade doesn’t need to prove anything. After his retirement tour, and it was definitely a tour, anyone can look up the NBA superstar and see he won three championships with one NBA Finals MVP. He was selected to 13 All-Star games and made All-NBA teams eight times. He was even selected as an All-American while at Marquette.
His new documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected , feels all the more confusing. Yes, Wade still deserves the praise and recognition for his basketball career, and more recently his parenting, but his final game only came in 2019. Wade’s longtime friend Rob Metelus directs the documentary, though providing little invention to the idea of movie tracking someone’s life from birth to current status. Linear as can be, D. Wade: Life Unexpected will satisfy fans of the superstar and fans of the NBA, acting more as a gloss-over and less as an in-detail retrospective.
A Rocky Story
On multiple accounts, Wade endured hardship on the path leading to retirement. After moving past the video of Wade the day following his final game, Metelus goes back to the beginning, the star’s childhood in Chicago with his parents JoLinda and Dwyane Sr. He lived in a heroine house, one being raided constantly, as his mother’s addiction pulled the family apart. After moving to Robbins to be with his father, Wade began playing basketball every day, training and practicing in his front driveway.
The documentary does do an incredible job in the aspect of access, with Metelus interviewing anyone and everyone associated with Wade’s life, including his parents, his sister Tragil, his high school coach, his cousin, and his college coach. The film remains linear for the rest of its duration, though, rarely straying from the next section of the basketball player’s life.
The Heat star dominated in high school and college, scoring 90 combined points in two prep games leading to a Marquette scholarship. After sitting out due to bad grades, Wade leads Marquette to a Final Four appearance, culminating in an All-American selection and a 5th place draft selection by the Miami Heat. Immediately becoming one of the NBA’s best players, he won the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and got his first title with the help of Shaquille O’Neal.
Kids And More Kids
The documentary spends much of its about 90-minute runtime on Wade’s relationships, both to his former wife and high school girlfriend Slovaughn Funches and his current wife Gabrielle Union. As expected from a doc made by his good friend, the storytelling lifts its central subject above others, and hardly recognizes his mistakes and misgivings. He looks like the ideal father and ideal husband, though it’s known that he had another child somewhere in-between, a part of his life that is glossed over in D. Wade: Life Unexpected .
Chronicling his divorce, second marriage, and his growth as a father takes up the largest chunk of time in the film’s third act. Stripping away the elements of basketball, it looks at Wade as a regular man, one that didn’t always have a picturesque life. Though we see a bit about his teaming up with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the early 2010s, his personal life takes center stage.
One of the best parts of the film comes in this vein, when Metelus covers Wade’s daughter Zaya, and how the basketball player had to practice acceptance and accept a lack of understanding. This small storyline has been making the national news, with the former NBA player doing the rounds on daytime television, and giving interviews to major publications.
The most insightful line of the film comes in this stretch of the film, with Wade saying, “My job is to help you become who you are, not change who you are,” in regards to fatherhood.
Life Unexpected: Conclusion
The film is clearly made with love and admiration for the future Hall of Famer, but it doesn’t do much outside of praise him. Documentarian Metelus decides to scratch the surface on a plethora of different stories, issues, and segments of Wade’s life. He covers a little about a lot, instead of focusing in-depth on a particular year, moment, or experience. D. Wade: Life Unexpected won’t damage the star’s reputation or image in any way, though. If anything, it will make certain people love him more, and others continue their rightful apathy towards the NBA and its players.
What is your favorite sports documentary? Let us know in the comments!
Wade: Life Unexpected premiered on ESPN on February 23, 2020. It is available to stream on ESPN+.
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