Zaire Wade knows that he has more eyeballs on him than the average G League player.
He has 2 million Instagram followers, and a father who has already achieved basketball greatness. In March, the streaming platform Discovery+ will release a six-part docuseries called “Legacy: In the Shadow of Greatness” that will feature the sons of famous athletes trying to make their own path in professional sports. Evander Holyfield and Randall Cunningham and their sons are participating.
So will Zaire and Dwyane Wade.
Zaire Wade has a new NFT project and a clothing line. But he laughed when he said he feels like he’s losing ground to his father off the court. After all, Dwyane Wade was part of the Smith Entertainment Group’s purchase of Real Salt Lake — he now is the part-owner of an NBA and an MLS club.
“He keeps it setting different goals for me to try to reach as far as being successful,” Zaire Wade said. “And I keep telling my dad, ‘Slow down, man, I’m trying to catch up with you, and you’re making it hard for me!’”
There’s a lot of ground for Zaire Wade to make up on the court, too. But four months into his journey as a professional basketball player, the younger Wade said he has been happy with his own progress during his time with the Salt Lake City Stars.
Wade says that sometimes, playing in the G League feels like a video game. Save the experimental G League Ignite franchise, the league is mostly comprised of players who played four years at their college then moved on to professional basketball. Many of them have some level of NBA experience.
Wade’s basketball experience is a little different: he’s the son of Utah Jazz minority owner and future NBA Hall-of-Famer. He never experienced college basketball, instead going straight to the professional ranks.
Wade, who just turned 20 earlier this month, is the youngest player on the Salt Lake City Stars — at least three years younger than his next-youngest teammate, the 23-year-old Carsen Edwards. And with all of the bigger and more experienced players he’s playing against, Wade says it sometimes feels “like playing 2K.”
Which is to say, there are times it feels like a video game on the hardest setting.
Given that, and given his age, it makes sense that he’s not yet posting impressive statistics with the Stars.
He’s not standing out, necessarily, but his season hasn’t been a catastrophe either. Given that Wade is so much younger and still slighter than his competition, and given his relatively unheralded status as the 294th-ranked prospect in high school basketball, the 20-year-old said he is proud of the work he’s done so far, and has felt improvement in his own game:
“I’m just getting comfortable overall, I think my game has calmed down a little bit. I can start to slow down, read the floor a little better coming off screens, things like that,” he said. “And then I think I’m starting to play better defense, game by game, on the ball.”
And with that approach, he’s earning the respect of his older peers.
“After the game, guys, they show their respect to me and tell me, ‘Young fella, really like your game,’” Wade says. “The thing that means a lot is when some of them tell me that I deserve to be here.”
His Stars coach, Nathan Peavy, is noticing improved confidence and a higher level of play from Zaire as well.
“Zaire is very quick. He’s probably the quickest guy on our team with the ball. He’s one of the better passers when he’s in his mode, in his groove,” Peavy said. “He can be very pesky defensively when he wants to be. Obviously, he needs to get more experience. He needs to mature in his body. But he has a chance to really grow.”