Dwyane Wade Talks NBA Restart and His Social Justice Initiative: I 'Wear It as a Badge of Honor'

"This was the first time that we needed the entire world to play basketball, to play a team sport together, and we've seen how hard it is to play a team sport with the world," Dwyane Wade tells PEOPLE

LYFE Brand Celebrates Dwyane Wade Jersey Retirement At HYDE American Airlines Arena
Dwyane Wade. Photo: Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images for LYFE Brand

In the historic year that has unfolded since playing his final professional basketball game in 2019, Dwyane Wade says he is exactly where he wants to be.

"I said in my retirement, I want to spend more time with my family. Well, here you go, you got all the time in the world," Wade, 38, tells PEOPLE while chatting about Budweiser Zero, the company's first non-alcoholic beer that was revealed on Wednesday. "It's been great. I wish that we didn't have to go through this in the world to get to this point, but I think a lot of have stepped back and understood there's a lot of things in life that we really don't really need."

"We need the essentials in life, but there's a lot of things outside the essentials that are not needed," the Miami Heat legend continues. "What's needed is just a little love, a little care with the ones you love."

The 16-year NBA veteran has kept busy since scoring a triple-double in the final game of his career last April, having joined TNT as a commentator for their acclaimed show, Inside the NBA, and recently launching an initiative with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul to support social justice issues in the wake of increased attention around the Black Lives Matter movement.

But with the NBA preparing to restart its regular season on Thursday after going into hiatus in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, Wade is more confident than ever in the timing of his retirement.

"I walked at the right time, 100 percent," he says. "I mean, if I was still playing and I had to go do it, then I would have. I'm a hooper. I'd go do it."

Dwyane Wade

"But when you're 38 years old, you don't want to be stuck in a bubble," Wade continues, referencing the Disney World campus in Orlando where NBA players are under stringent social-distancing restrictions. "I don't want to be stuck in a bubble. I don't know about everybody else. But I'm glad that I'm still able to have a connection to the game [as a commentator]."

Wade — a wine enthusiast and co-founder of the Napa Valley-based Wade Cellars — has also been immersed in his partnership with Budweiser, which began at the end of his NBA career. In April, Wade starred in a recreation of the beer brand's iconic "Whassup!?" commercial to help remind others to check-in with loved ones during the pandemic.

The athlete also had a hands-on role in the development of Budweiser Zero. Wade helped to conceive Budweiser Zero as an alternative drink for athletes who want a beverage that tastes like a typical Budweiser, minus the side effects of alcohol. He also helped to design the beverage's packaging.

With bars, restaurants, and large social gatherings still barred in many states, Wade says the non-alcoholic beer is great even for those who aren't training for sports.

"I'm responsible for a lot of lives, and I'm driving a lot, driving my family a lot, but I don't want to sacrifice my fun either," Wade says. "To be able to still have fun and be able to be a part of the conversation while having a beer in my hand when I'm out at the park with my friends, it's just key."

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

With the NBA restart taking place Thursday night with a marquee match-up featuring LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the rival L.A. Clippers, Wade says he is looking forward to both seeing the return of basketball and how his former peers will continue to shine a light on social justice issues.

"I'm excited about getting the game back, and I know so many of the others are excited," Wade says. "But I'm also excited that even though we get the sport back, the players aren't allowing themselves to lose focus of the bigger picture of what we're dealing with in the world at the same time."

"Not only do I get to watch the sport, but I also get to watch incredible young men and women stand up for what they believe in and fully embody that as role models," Wade continues.

That's one of the reasons why Wade felt it was so important to start the Social Change Fund with his longtime friends Anthony and Paul, who are both in Orlando to participate in the NBA season.

"To be able to start the Social Change Fund with two good friends of mine was big for all of us," Wade says. "But to be able to come together and understand that it's bigger than us, and hopefully our impact and our reach can help change so many different communities around the world. We wear it as a badge of honor."

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With so much change for the country over the last few months, Wade says he is remaining optimistic there are better days ahead.

"Everyone has made it through in a different way. Some people have struggled a lot. Some people's lives will never be the same — a lot of people's lives will never be the same," he tells PEOPLE. "I think when we come back from this, hopefully, we come back with a sense of community, with a sense of togetherness, because this was the first time that we needed the entire world to play basketball, to play a team sport together, and we've seen how hard it is to play a team sport with the world."

"It's not easy, so that means we need to do a little bit more of supporting each other, of being there together," Wade continues. "Hopefully, when we come out of this there, we come out of this more of a unit, as an entire world, and not come out just as individuals."

More information about Budweiser Zero can be found on Budweiser.com, or on any of the brand's social media channels.

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