How Dwyane Wade Became a Game-Show Host
Dwyane Wade wasn’t sure he wanted to be a game-show host.
The three-time NBA champion was hesitant before agreeing to be the frontman for The Cube, an adaptation of a megapopular British show that Wade will host—and also sometimes participate in. (If you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs, Wade yelling, “Talk to me nice!” is almost certainly taking up space in your brain.) The Cube consists of players taking part in a series of games to win up to $250,000, and one of the lifelines afforded to contestants was having Wade himself sub in for one of the challenges.
His preparation for the role was extensive. Wade worked with a voice coach, a hosting coach and trained for more than a month to ready himself for the gig. And even then, the job unlocked a new set of nerves for the former Heat star (and current Jazz part owner.)
“Bro, I had all the hesitation,” Wade told Sports Illustrated over the phone earlier this week about his latest project. “It was a whole new type of anxiety and nervousness. But ultimately when the contestants came out, that’s when I was comfortable, talking to people and getting to have conversations with people I never would otherwise.”
Wade says he still keeps in touch with some of the contestants he met on the show, chatting with them on social media. Ahead of The Cube’s June 10th premiere, Wade caught up with SI to discuss why he took the job, his emotional investment in the players and much more.
Sports Illustrated: My friend Brendan watched the preview for the show the other night, and this is actually a good place to start—he wanted me to ask you how they keep the cube so clean.
Dwyane Wade: [Laughs.] Great question. So we filmed this in the middle of the pandemic, right? We could have no fans in there. And so every time a contestant finished one game, they had to step out, they had to go inside and clean the cube. They have these special metrics and everything, like what you need to do, how it needs to be cleaned. It needed to be sprayed down after every take.
SI: How much Windex do you think they’re going through? Because that thing is crystal clear, man.
DW: Yeah, bro. I mean, listen, like seeing it in person, it looks crazy. That’s what people don’t understand. Like the games look easy, but you’re not understanding that cube. And being inside there, and then when that door shut, it just feels crazy.
SI: So it’s been really fun for me as someone who’s obviously a fan of yours during your basketball career, to see all the things you’re doing in this new chapter of your life. I’m just glad you’re not like boxing somebody. When you sign up to do something like this, what I want to know is how do you get over the fear of embarrassment? Because it would be really easy for you to not do too much.
DW: It would be, man. But for me it’s like when you fear something—and it’s not everything because it’s still birds and snakes out there that I fear and I ain’t been able to conquer it. But when it comes to fear, and it’s something that I can personally control, I have to do it. I have to overcome that fear. And so for me, man, like I didn’t come out and retire saying, Hey, guys, I’m going to be on TV. I’m going to do a game show. I’m going to be on TNT. I didn’t come out thinking none of those things. But these opportunities presented themselves and you know what? Let me see if I can do it. I may fail. This show may be terrible. I may fall flat on my face. I may be the worst host in history. But you know what? I got up there and I conquered a fear. And I did something that I didn’t even know I could do. That’s a part of growth; it’s about evolution. And so I’m just trying to continue to evolve.
SI: I could never be a game-show host because whenever I watch game shows, I get too upset when people lose. The shows do such a good job of making me invested in people. When you’re hosting it, how invested do you get? Is it hard watching people who really need the money go through this?
DW: First of all, Ro, you would be an amazing game-show host. Just want to let you know that.
SI: Oh, my God, when I show that quote to my mom—thank you very much.
DW: You would be great. You got the personality for it. You’re quick; you’re witty. You could do it.
SI: Thank you so much.
DW: But you know what, you get so emotionally connected. Like after my first show with Sam and T.J., I remember after that day, I remember thinking, Why didn’t y’all tell me I was going to be this invested? I’m emotionally drained. Because now I know what they’re there for. I know things about their family. I watched T.J. sit up there on TV and cry because of how important it was for him to win this money to change the lives of others. And so, bro, you get so connected to these individuals.
SI: I’m getting so stressed out just thinking of that. Because I know part of the show is [the contestants] can ask you to play one of the games in the cube for them. I have to imagine that’s a unique—you faced all kinds of pressure in your life—I have to imagine that's a very unique pressure when someone else’s money is on the line and they’re like, “Dwyane Wade, do this.”
DW: Listen, no one is gonna hear me say this by reading it and or even hear my voice. And understand what I mean when I say this, right? Because everyone is like, He’s played in the Olympics; he played in the NBA Finals. That’s not pressure.
It’s a different set of pressure to go inside there. Knowing that they called you in to try to accomplish these goals that they set out to accomplish. And you know what it’s for. You know this is for their wedding. You know this is for their rent. You know this is for their community. And you get one shot to do it. And you can lose them a life by doing it. You’ve been sitting there for five to 10 hours hosting. It’s a lot of pressure. And I will say that I did what I normally do—I stepped up to the challenge. Not every time. But for the most part. I was a fourth-quarter player.
SI: What’s kind of your philosophy right now in terms of the things you want to do? Obviously you have the ownership with the Jazz; you’re on TNT. How are you approaching which things you want to take on in your life?
DW: You know what, man, when I retired, no lie, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I feel like I did an O.K. job saving up some money. But I’m a doer. So I needed to do something. What I’ve always done is I just put down things on paper that I want to be a part of one day, right? I always do a yearly list of this is what I would love to accomplish. Ownership was on there, didn’t know it was going to be right away. TV was on there. So I write them down; I send them over to my team. They look at me and say, Are you crazy? Or they say, Let’s get to work.
I’m trying to find things where I can be myself. D-Wade, the person everyone seen play basketball, that was me being who I needed to be out there on the floor. But Dwyane Wade, now I can be myself. And so I’m just trying to do all these things that allow me to do that. You see me, I’m trying to enjoy life. If it’s not joy, then I don’t want no part of it.
SI: O.K., so it’s summer in Los Angeles. A lot of us are, you know, very excited to get back into life. I’ve been drinking a lot more wine lately. I’m starting to expand my knowledge. I wanted to ask the expert, where do I begin? What’s a good place for me to start if I want to know more about wine?
DW: Well, I definitely am not an expert. But I mean, it’s so many different ways, right? And I guess it just depends on how you want to be, like some people want to be serious about it. Some people want to drink and just enjoy it. It’s like golf. You want to take no lessons; you want no coaching and then enjoy the game. And so it depends on what you want. There are so many great books. I just posted one the other day called Wine Folly. When I go to restaurants, I ask a lot of questions to somms. I drink wine and that’s how I really know what I like because I just drink enough of it to see what I like, what I don’t like. It’s so many different ways. And whatever way is organic and comfortable for you to do, do it, bro.