"My daughter has allowed us gracefully to be her support system," Dwyane Wade said of daughter Zaya
gabrielle union and dwyane wade with their family
Dwyane Wade, Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union
| Credit: Andrew Toth/Getty

Dwyane Wade is reflecting on how his experience as a father to daughter Zaya has made him a better person and parent.

On Thursday, the retired NBA star, 39, caught up with Craig Melvin on the 3rd Hour of Today and shared that raising Zaya, who came out as transgender last year, has "made me grow."

"I didn't know anything, I really wasn't knowledgeable about the LGBTQ+ community," Wade said. "What it has done is it opened my eyes and my ears to something greater and bigger than I, and my daughter has allowed us gracefully to be her support system."

"She's the strong one in this family. She's a hero," Wade added of his daughter, whom he raises with his wife Gabrielle Union. "It's our family's job to make sure that we listen to her. We listen to the doctors. We ask questions and we formulate our own ideas of how Zaya should be and should be raised in this world and we don't allow others to do that for us."

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In addition to Zaya, Wade and Union share 2½-year-old daughter Kaavia James. The Cube host is also dad to sons Zaire, 19, and Xavier, 7, as well as Dahveon, 19, who is Wade's nephew.

The former athlete said he is grateful that he and Union are "fortunate enough to be able to take a step back and allow our kids to develop and grow into who they're gonna become."

As the father to kids of various ages, Wade said he's "been able to see kids in different generations at different times, in different parts of places in my life."

"It's helped me grow a lot," he shared. "It's helped me be a better parent and be a better person because I've seen all kids are not alike, and you can't treat them as such."

Last month, Union and Wade celebrated Zaya's 14th birthday with sweet social media tributes and a rollerblading party.

"Happy Birthday @zayawade," Union wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of Zaya striking a pose while wearing a colorful striped top and a pair of white pants with three-dimensional flowers on the side. 

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"14!!!! 🎂🎁🎈💥💥💥 We ❤ you so much and we are so proud of you! Keep shining my 🖤," Union added, passing along a sweet message on behalf of herself and her husband.

Wade shared a collection of snapshots to Instagram from the "Zaya on Wheels"-themed bash, showing the father-daughter duo taking laps around the rink together and posing with family.

"I'm obsessed with your happiness! Happy 14th Birthday @zayawade," the Miami Heat alum captioned the photos.

Zaya shared her own photos from the party to her Instagram feed, featuring solo shots in various outfits, plus candids with friends and family.

"Happy 14th to me! I had such a fun birthday!!!🎉🎉," Zaya wrote. "I love all of you guys, and thank you all for the love and support!❤❤"