But the story of his youth and his learning the importance of being drug-free, crime-free, gang-free and family committed is even more inspiring. While A Father First is clearly an autobiography, it is written from the perspective of learning the importance of family and how that attitude has impacted every aspect of Wade's life and career. He sees clearly that he is a better basketball player and team member because of his commitment to family and particularly to his sons.
While Dwyane was yet a child, Tragil took him on the bus to his father's home (telling Dwyane they were going to the movies), left him playing basketball with his dad's girlfriend's kids and told the father that they were going to lose Dwyane to the gangs if he didn't step up and raise him. Dwyane's dad did just that and set Dwyane onto the path toward success.
Playing basketball through high school and college allowed Dwyane to find new stability in his coaches and teams. Much of his basketball skill he attributes to his father who mentored and coached him, and his trajectory toward success was furthered by amazing coaches and teammates.
The story of the divorce and the custody battle were well documented in the press. Dwyane's ex subjected the boys to classic parental alienation, which eventually led Dwyane to conclude that if he were to have any relationship at all with them as they grew up, he would need to obtain legal sole custody. The accusations from the boys' mom toward Dwyane flew through the press, all intended to deter him from seeking custody and to win it in the end. Allegations of abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and more played out in the popular media. But in the end, Dwyane was successful in gaining legal custody.
The story is truly heartbreaking, especially from the perspective of the boys. Dwyane has tried to maintain a good attitude and he still believes that children are best served by having both parents having good influences in their lives. He has been committed to the visitation standards imposed in the custody decree and the boys still have a loving relationship with their mom. But Dwyane won the battle that so many fathers face today and offers hope to those having similar experiences.
The Bottom Line
It seems to be cool in some elements of popular culture for men to walk away from family responsibilities. It seems particularly so among many professional athletes. But D-Wade breaks the mold in that regard. Here stands a father who came from the same challenging background of multiple generations from homes without a father, and yet who fought against the odds to take responsibility for his sons and raise them by teaching responsibility by precept and example.
A Father First is a must-read for any man who values fatherhood. It is a plus to have a passion for basketball, but any dad will appreciate the story, the example and the commitment. The book is well written, easy to follow and hard to put down. The depictions of life in the streets are vivid, as are the experiences that gave him purpose in escaping that life and learning to embrace the elements of personal responsibility and success.
If you are looking for an inspiring and fascinating read, then order A Father First. You will be glad you took the time to read and appreciate the example of responsible fatherhood that Dwyane Wade has shared with the world.