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Dwyane Wade a champion for Chicago, on and off the court

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dwyane_wade_std.jpgMiami Heat guard and Robbins native Dwyane Wade is mindful of where he came from and the people who helped him get where he is now.

Plus, to hear him tell it, he really loves Chicago.

So, he's strapping on his altruistic sneakers and driving hard to make his city a better place.

The four-time NBA All-Star, 2006 NBA Finals MVP and Olympic gold medal-winner is in town this weekend for a four day fundraiser that will raise money for his Wade's World Foundation and other Chicago charitable organizations.

"There's been a lot of people in my life that have helped me," he said. "All of my coaches, from my high school coach to my college coach, they all helped me get to a point where I was very confident in my abilities and very confident in myself.

"Having people believe in you at a young age goes a long, long way."

Wade recently purchased a downtown condo and says that all of the memories forged here make it his unquestioned home.

"Chicago, as I get older, I appreciate it more and more," Wade said. "For what it did for me, even though a lot of things looked dark. If it wasn't for my upbringing in Chicago, I don't know if I'd be the person that I am today. I've been through what the kids here go through and we're trying to shed some light on it."
Wade is stepping in to save the cash-strapped library in his hometown and will present a check to the library staff Thursday, said Priscilla Coatney, the Robbins library director.

Wade confirmed his foundation plans to make a donation to the library Thursday, but he wouldn't give the dollar amount.

"Through my foundation, we wanted to find out how much it is now to keep things rolling," Wade said. The library staff "told us, and we agreed on the price, and we'll go from there."

Wade said the library is a vital part of the Robbins community.

"When you think about the community, it's a place where kids can go and have an opportunity to learn more and have more access to what's going on in life and things of the past as well," Wade said. "You know, of course, Robbins is a small neighborhood, and without a library, there would be (fewer) opportunities."

Coatney said she was contacted Tuesday by a representative of Wade's foundation.

"It's very exciting," Coatney said. "I don't know what they're going to do, but I'm hoping it's enough to take us through October." Last month, Robbins library staffers and patrons gathered on the library's front lawn and made a public plea to President Obama for help. At the time, Coatney said the library was running out of cash and would need about $70,000, or the library would close by the end of August.

Speaking with the Marquette alum, one gets that sense that, for him, giving back is all about the feedback he gets from those who benefit.

"It's great seeing hope in their eyes and getting the chance to talk to them about certain things and knowing that by giving a kid an opportunity, it might save their life. It's just about giving them hope."

dwyane-wade.JPGAs one of the most recognized athletes on the planet, Wade realizes that a message of inspiration coming from him affects kids in a unique manner.

"It hits home in a different way," he said. "I've been a kid before and I know, that your parents tell you about it, but perhaps when you hear someone that you maybe look up to say it, you feel like he understands because he's been in that position before and came out of it. It's just going to help.

"When you're speaking to a room full of kids, if you can reach one kid, you've done your job because that kid might reach another kid who reaches another kid."

A formative figure in his own youth was Michael Jordan, who Wade says re-invented the game of basketball. It's clear he's incorporated many of MJ's signature moves into his own repertoire -- along the way building quite an impressive laundry list of accolades.

The former Richards star said that he'll take a little extra pride when Jordan is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.

"Just to know that he played in the city that I'm from, and the way that he represented Chicago made you feel like you were part of something," Wade said. "Him going to the Hall of Fame is unbelievable, because to us, he's the best player we've ever seen and the greatest that we're ever going to see in our lifetime."

Jordan's high-flying, above-the-rim style of play made him even more attractive to local kids like Wade who grew up pushing the limits of the game and trying new things -- thanks to No. 23's innovations.

"He invented a lot of things," Wade said. "He invented playing basketball cool. He invented the crazy shots, the athletic ability. A lot of different things started with Michael and most players are trying to follow that blueprint.

"I feel like everyone needs somebody to look up to. We had Michael Jordan to look up to as a professional athlete, especially the way he carried himself."

Wade's relationship with Jordan extends off the hardwood and into the business sector. Both are pitchmen for Gatorade and this summer saw Wade switch his shoes over to Jordan's brand.

"For me to be a fan of Michael, for me to be part of Team Jordan now, I'm so excited," Wade said. "I wish I could be there. If I didn't have my weekend, I'd be there watching the greatest player of all-time be inducted into the Hall of Fame."

When asked if he thinks about potentially joining his idol in the Hall, Wade points out that he's got a long road ahead of him before realizing that goal.

"I don't think about it," he said. "I just go out and try to play the game to the highest ability that God has given me. If it allows me to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with so many great players and coaches, it would be an unbelievable honor. But, I'm in the midst of my career and I've got a long time to go before I get there. Hopefully one day if everything works out the way it's planned, I can celebrate a moment like Michael is this weekend."

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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Bulls will officially be back next year when DWade comes home and plays alongside DRose! At least 3 more 'ships! We never really leave Chicago Dwayne, we just travel a little.

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