By: Ira Winderman | Contact Reporter
March 28, 2018, 2:35PM | MIAMI
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The recognition, Dwyane Wade said, is flattering. He only wishes it would have come under different circumstances.
After stepping forward with several initiatives in the wake of the horrific Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Miami Heat guard has been named one of five finalists for the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, the Professional Basketball Writers Association announced Wednesday.
The award, named after the NBA’s second commissioner, is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Wade said if being a finalist brings additional focus to his work, then it is particularly embraced, no matter the result of the ultimate vote.
“It won’t stop whether you win or you don’t,” he said of his efforts on behalf of those in Parkland as well as his efforts to help curb gun violence in his native Chicago. “It won’t stop the things that hopefully that I’ve done and hopefully what others continue to do. But any time your name is associated with the positive things that you’ve done in the community and it’s an award situation, especially one of this magnitude, it definitely helps.”
In the wake of the tragedy, Wade visited the school during the students’ first day back, spending time with students, teachers and administrators to learn more about their initiatives and how he could be involved. He since donated $200,000 to help youths in Chicago join the Parkland students’ March for Our Lives movement in Washington, D.C., this past Saturday. He also dedicated a special exhibit titled “Parkland 17” in the Wynwood arts district in Miami.
One of the 17 killed in the shooting, Joaquin Oliver, was buried in a Wade jersey. Wade has since written Joaquin’s name on his shoes each game, met privately with the Oliver family, and has dedicated the remainder of the season in Joaquin’s honor.
“I think his platform that he has here in South Florida is one of the most special things about his legacy,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has that platform in Chicago and he has it worldwide. But Dwyane sees and understands that the success that he’s had as a professional basketball player can extend and be so powerful in so many other places, to be able to give back and to be able to help people that need it.
“And in this community, you’re seeing it right now, just with his support of the whole Stoneman Douglas community up there in Parkland. It’s not just words with him. It’s actions. He’s out there really lending his support and his voice to give them a bigger megaphone.”
The other finalists for the citizenship award are Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony, Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
Each NBA team was offered the opportunity to nominate someone for the award and was asked to describe the nominee’s off-court accomplishments since the end of last season. A panel of 25 PBWA members reviewed the submissions and determined the finalists.
The recipient will be decided through a vote of the PBWA’s full membership, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Previous recipients of the award include the Heat’s P.J. Brown in 1997 and Alonzo Mourning in 2002.
Wade said it particularly would be an honor to follow in Mourning’s footsteps.
“Being here in this franchise, not only seeing the organization do amazing things in the community, I got an opportunity to see a mentor in Alonzo do things with his foundation,” Wade said. “And I got an opportunity for three years to team up with him to do some things at Zo’s Summer Groove and all the things we did together. I definitely took notes of the success he had away from the game.”