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Dwyane Wade says daughter Zaya helped him become a better parent: 'It opened my eyes'

The retired NBA star shared how raising his daughter Zaya, 14, who came out as transgender last year, has opened his eyes and made him a better parent.
/ Source: TODAY

Dwyane Wade believes raising a LGBTQ+ child has made him a better parent.

The retired NBA superstar and newly minted game show host of "The Cube" spoke with Craig Melvin on the 3rd hour of TODAY Thursday about what he has learned since his daughter Zaya publicly came out as transgender early last year.

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

"She's the strong one in this family. She's a hero. It's my wife, it's our family's job to make sure that we listen to her."

Zaya, who celebrated turning 14 last month, is the second-oldest of Wade's four children. Wade and his wife, actor Gabrielle Union, who is Zaya's stepmother, have shown their support for her every step of her journey, including a shoutout to her while presenting at last year's GLAAD Media Awards.

"We stand as allies with the LGBTQ+ community as proud parents of a transgender child. Our daughter Zaya is leading us in our journey, and we’re doing all we can to give every one of our kids the ability to live their truth," Wade said during the virtual ceremony.

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Wade, 39, first became a father at 20 when his son Zaire, 19, was born. He and Union are getting the full range of parenting experiences, as they are now raising two teenagers as well as Wade's son, Xavier, 7, from a previous relationship, and their daughter, Kaavia, 2, whom they had via a surrogate.

"Zaire is 19 years old, Kaav is two years old, and I've been able to see kids in different generations at different times, in different parts of places in my life," Wade said on TODAY. "And it's helped me grow a lot. 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."

Wade has had a Hall of Fame NBA career and won three NBA titles, authored a best-selling book and won an Oscar as an associate producer of an animated short film, but there is one title he cherishes above all.

"Yeah, 'Dad,'" he said. "That was the greatest words I ever hear.

"I want the next generation of Wades to look different, to be different, and to continue to evolve. So when I hear my kids say, 'Dad,' man, my heart melts every single time."