Curtis R. Austin, Black Books and Reviews.com
Basketball superstar Dwyane Wade’s autobiography “A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger than Basketball” is less a locker room peek at the inner world of professional basketball, as it is a touching glimpse at a poverty-stricken kid’s unshakeable faith in his drug addicted mother and how the kid-turned-dad wages an against-all-odds legal battle for the two sons he so adores. In his first literary outing, Wade delivers an emotionally thunderous slam dunk.
Wade, who was awarded 2006 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated and named the NBA Finals MVP after leading his Miami Heat to the first of their two NBA Championships that same year, uses basketball as a backdrop as he tells his story of growing up on the Southside of Chicago, arguably one of the toughest cities in America.
Wade, aka “D-Wade” or “Flash,” drafts veteran writer Mim Eichler Rivas help him tell his tale. Eichler was the ghost writer on the New York Times’ bestsellers “The Pursuit of Happyness ” with Chris Gardner that became a movie of the same name starring Will Smith; and “Finding Fish,” with Antwone Fisher, which was the basis of the Denzel Washington film “Antwone Fisher.”
Through Wade’s voice, Rivas is at the top of her game as the story begins to unfold as Wade, now an established NBA superstar, is at home resting in preparation for a playoff run after beating the Los Angeles Lakers the night before. At home, he receives a text message from his lawyer informing him that the judge has made a decision in “the very public, drawn-out custody battle for my sons, nine-year-old Zaire and almost four-year-old Zion. .. It’s over.”
The lawyer’s news that night in March 2011 triggers memories for Wade of his own hard scrabble youth: “I’m taken back to the memory of something that happened to another boy, age eight and a half, who – twenty years earlier – felt he also had been left on the doorstep of uncertainty. …. The year was 1990 … The place was the Southside of Chicago, on the corner of Fifty-Ninth and Prairie, not the projects but a place hard-hit by poverty and drugs, where the sound of gunfire was more or less constant and knowing someone who died young was a reality. The boy I’m remembering is me.”
Fifty-Ninth and Prairie, if memory serves me correct, is in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, less than 20 blocks from the Windy City’s Bronzeville neighborhood, Chicago’s answer to New York City’s fabled Harlem. Like Harlem, Bronzeville is steeped in historical and cultural landmarks, a breathing monument to the generations of Blacks who migrated there from the South. And just like Harlem, there is an undercurrent there: gangs, violence and drugs.
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